Washington Nationals versus St. Louis Cardinals, 17-20 April 2014.
Proposed starting pitchers:
17 April – Jordan (Wash) versus Wainwright (StL)
18 April – Gonzalez (Wash) versus Wacha (StL)
19 April – Zimmermann (Wash) versus Lynn (StL)
20 April – Strasburg (Wash) versus Miller (StL)
(Starting pitchers subject to change)
Washington (9-6) took two of three in Miami, but the Marlins weren’t a soft touch. They definitely made the Nationals earn wins in the opener and finale of the three-game series. Washington heads home for a 10-game home stand (four with the Cardinals, three each with the Angels and Padres). Washington is a game and a half behind Atlanta in the National League East. Going 5-5 in this homestand would be unacceptable.
Thursday, Adam Wainwright starts for St. Louis. He’s a legitimate, proven ace. He doesn’t throw as hard as he used to, but he has command of all his pitches (four-seamer, cutter, sinker, curve, change). With his solid defense behind him, Wainwright is going to be tough to beat. In 21 innings, Wainwright has given up 15 hits and six earned runs. Taylor Jordan may not match Wainwright pitch for pitch, but this is a classic “keep your team in the game” start for Washington’s hurler. Don’t make early mistakes on pitch location, keep the Nats in it, and let the bullpen pick up the starter.
Friday, Michael Wacha gets the start for St. Louis. Wacha is the highly-regarded youngster with great potential. He carries a 93 mile-per-hour four-seamer, a changeup, a curve and a cutter. In 19 innings, he’s given up 15 hits and 4 earned runs. He’s gonna be a handful, but Gio Gonzalez is pitching with confidence this year. This could be a classic matchup between a hard-throwing youngster and a “stylish” lefty. The contrast in pitching styles will be enjoyable to watch.
Saturday, Lance Lynn starts for St. Louis. He features a four-seamer (92 MPH), a slider, a two-seamer (91 MPH), a curve and a changeup. In 18 innings, he’s given up 19 hits and 8 earned runs. In comparison to the previous two starters, Lynn isn’t doing quite as well, but he’s competent. Jordan Zimmermann has an advantage here over his counterpart.
Sunday, Shelby Miller takes the mound for the Cardinals. He’s yet another hard-throwing righthander, with a 94 MPH four-seamer, a curve, a cutter and a changeup. So far, in 17.1 innings, he’s allowed 16 hits and 9 earned runs. He’s also walked 9 batters. He had a pretty good 2013, but is struggling so far this season. Sunday is a great opportunity for Stephen Strasburg to bounce back after a difficult start Tuesday night at Miami.
The Cardinals (9-6) are known for being a fundamentally solid team that doesn’t beat itself. They just won the first two of a three-game series in
Milwaukee. Yadier Molina is the best catcher in baseball, and leads St. Louis with 3 home runs so far. First baseman Matt Adams and left fielder Matt Holliday supply power, while third baseman Matt Carpenter is blossoming as a leadoff hitter and corner defender.
My guess – Wainwright pitches like an ace is supposed to pitch, getting St. Louis a win on Thursday. Jordan pitches pretty well, but not quite good enough to shut down the Cardinals. On Friday, Wacha and Gonzalez match zeros for 6 innings or more, a pitchers’ duel where late-inning “small ball” helps the Cardinals get another win. On Saturday, Zimmermann shuts down the Redbirds, and Strasburg does the same on Sunday. That back-to-back effort gets Washington wins both days.
For this series, Anthony Rendon has to keep hitting. Steven Sousa, Jr. and Zach Walters have shown their hitting skills since being recalled from AAA, with Walters homering in consecutive games Tuesday and Wednesday. Washington’s bench is contributing, which is a comfort for manager Matt Williams. Those reserves have to keep it up.
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