ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (9-6)
at WASHINGTON NATIONALS (9-6)
First pitch: Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -155, Washington +145, Total: 7
Two of the top teams in the National League, the Cardinals and Nationals, begin a four-game set on Thursday evening in the nationís capital.
St. Louis has been a sterling example of how a franchise should be run for years now, and the club has started 2014 solid once again. It has won four of its past five contests coming into this one, and just took 2-of-3 games in Milwaukee against the current NL Central-leading Brewers. The Cardinals' pitching dominated the first two games of the series, allowing just one run, but could not get it going on Wednesday for the sweep; losing 5-1. 1B Matt Adams (.362 BA) has been doing well all season long and went 6-for-12 with a double in the series against the Brewers. Washington is right on the tail of the Braves in the NL East after taking 2-of-3 games in Miami. The Nats scored 17 total runs in the three-game set and were able to overcome a great start from the Marlins ace, Jose Fernandez, winning 6-3 behind the power of OF Jayson Werth (1-for-4, HR, 3 RBI) and recently called-up youngster, 24-year old SS Zach Walters (1-for-1, HR). Walters now has a home run in two of his first three games this season. Getting the call for St. Louis in this matchup will be veteran RHP Adam Wainwright (2-1, 2.57 ERA) who has pitched seven innings in each of his first three starts of the year. On the other side of the diamond, the Nationals will look to RHP Taylor Jordan (0-1, 4.76 ERA) who will be making his 12th career start and has only one career win in that time. Over the previous two seasons, these clubs met up a total of 18 times with the Cardinals going an impressive 12-6 overall and 6-4 when playing in Washington. Since the beginning of the 2013 season, St. Louis has gone 30-12 (.714) after six consecutive games versus division rivals. Meanwhile, the Nationals are 30-10 (.750) when playing on Thursday since the start of 2012.
Adam Wainwright has been one of the premier starters in the majors for years now and has at least 19 wins, 230 innings, 212 Kís and a sub-2.95 ERA in three of the past four seasons. He already has 24 strikeouts in his first 21 innings on the mound this year while allowing only one home run, which came against the Cubs in his last start on Saturday. That was his worst outing to date, as he went 7 innings while allowing seven hits and four runs, but had a very impressive 8 K's and no walks. Wainwright has started 12 times against the Nats in his career, compiling a 6-3 record (7-5 team record) with a mediocre 3.80 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but earned a win in each of his past two times facing them. Heís totaled 15.1 frames, allowing 12 hits and three runs (1 HR) while striking out 14 with just one walk in the two games. OF Bryce Harper (6-for-11, 2 doubles) has had plenty of success early on in his career against the righty. On the other hand, the only two players to have a home run against him are OF Jayson Werth (5-for-23, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 7 Kís) and 1B Adam LaRoche (7-for-32, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 12 Kís). The Cardinalsí bullpen has not lived up to expectations thus far in 2014, combining to go 0-2 with a 5.06 ERA while successfully getting the save in all four of its attempts. Closer Trevor Rosenthal (7.36 ERA, 4 saves) has gone 4-for-4 in his save opportunities, but has allowed at least one hit in each of his past four outings and six total runs over that time.
Taylor Jordan came out of nowhere last season, starting nine games for the Nationals with a 3.66 ERA and 1.35 WHIP, but recorded only 29 strikeouts in 51.2 innings. He never was a huge strikeout pitcher in the minor leagues, so the K-rate is not all too surprising. Jordan has already allowed 16 hits (1 HR) over his first 11.1 innings this season while striking out eight batters with four walks. Atlanta roughed him up in his last outing on Saturday, getting 10 hits and five runs against him in just five frames. This start will be Jordanís first against the Redbirds and he has yet to face any of their players in an MLB game. St. Louis currently ranks eighth in the league in batting average against right-handed pitching (.263), but is hitting only .244 (12th-worst in majors) overall this season. Matt Adams has done most of his damage against righties this year, going 19-for-46 (.413 BA) against them with six doubles and a home run. The Nationals have compiled one of the best bullpens in baseball and they have pitched to a combined 3-2 record with a 2.39 ERA and an incredible 67 Kís in just 52.2 IP. Closer Rafael Soriano (0.00 ERA, 3 saves) earned his third save in as many chances Wednesday night, and has yet to allow a run or walk over six innings on the mound while fanning 10 batters.