ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (79-58)
at CINCINNATI REDS (77-61)
First pitch: Tuesday, 7:10 p.m. ET
Line: Cincinnati -150, St. Louis +140, Total: 8
The slumping Cardinals look get back on the winning track as they play game two of a pivotal four-game series against their NL Central rival Reds, on Tuesday night.
Highly-touted prospect Michael Wacha (2-0, 3.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) will look to get the Cardinals back in the win column, a place they haven't been in four of their past five games, as he takes the mound against Homer Bailey. (9-10, 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) These two teams are currently holding the two Wild Card positions in the National League, setting up a potential one-game playoff between the division foes. The Cardinals have dominated the series this season, posting a record of 10-6 on the season. In the five previous series, the Reds have lost two out of three games every single time, before starting off the current series with a with a 7-2 victory on Monday night. This year, the Cardinals have been solid away from home with a 38-33 road record. However, the Reds have been outstanding at home, with a record of 42-24. OF Shin-Soo Choo played a huge role in Monday night’s victory, going 2-for-5 with a homer and 2 RBI in the Reds' 7-2 victory. Choo has been on fire as of late, going 12-for-27 (.444) during a six-game hitting streak. OF Matt Holliday has been great against the Reds this year, going 18-for-54 (.333) with three home runs and 14 RBI. With OF Carlos Beltran (back) and C Yadier Molina (wrist) both questionable for Tuesday’s game, the offensive load will rely more on Holliday.
Wacha has been another impressive youngster on a staff that includes NL Rookie of the Year candidate Shelby Miller. At 6-foot-6, Wacha is an imposing presence on the mound. After starting the year as a starter, he was moved to the bullpen, but manager Mike Matheny has brought him back into the starting rotation where he's 1-0 (team 1-3) with a 4.37 ERA and 1.28 WHIP this season. In his last appearance on Wednesday, he went threw four shutout innings in relief against the Reds, allowing only three hits while striking out seven batters. Wacha has the ability to be a very good No. 2 starter at the major-league level, and might be a key for the Cardinals in October. He hasn’t seen Reds hitters very many times, but has shut them down, giving up only two hits in 13 plate-appearances. All-Star 1B Joey Votto and SS Zach Cozart are each 1-for-1 against him. Wacha in his four starts at the beginning of the season was averaging right 5.5 innings pitched per start, and might not get stretched too much beyond that for this matchup. The Cardinals bullpen has been up-and-down this season, as they rank 14th in baseball with a 3.49 ERA, but the numbers have been much better on the road where they've tallied a 2.87 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
Bailey has really struggled against the Cardinals in his career, going 4-9 (team is 4-12) with a 5.13 WHIP and 1.51 WHIP, including a 1-2 record and 5.60 ERA in three starts this season. However, he may have solved the Cardinals in his last start, tossing 7.1 innings of shutout ball in the Reds 10-0 victory on Wednesday. Bailey is tied for seventh in the National League with 173 strikeouts on the season. At 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, the right-hander has great velocity on his fastball, and can be extremely difficult on opponents when he is on. Bailey has pitched well recently, going 4-0 with a 2.83 ERA and 1.07 WHIP during his six-start unbeaten streak. One key to look out for is Tuesday night’s game is at night, where Bailey has been much better (2.84 ERA, .209 opponents' BA) compared to during daylight (4.37 ERA, .276 opponents' BA). Led by closer Aroldis Chapman, the Reds bullpen is very good at striking opponents out, ranking sixth in the majors with 407 K's in 382 innings (9.6 K/9). If Bailey (6.6 IP per start) can pitch like he did last time against St. Louis and help set up Chapman in the ninth, then the Reds could inch closer to passing the Cardinals for a potential home game if the two teams meet in the one-game playoff.