ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (31-29)
at KANSAS CITY ROYALS (28-31)
First pitch: Thursday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Line: St. Louis -115, Kansas City +105, Total: 7.5
The Royals and Cardinals do battle for the fourth consecutive game on Thursday night in Kansas City.
St. Louis has really been struggling, losing seven of its past 10 games while being shut out twice in the past four contests. Adam Wainwright pitched another tremendous game on Wednesday (8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8 K’s), but left two men on base in the ninth before closer Trevor Rosenthal blew the save. They were able to hold off the Kansas City offense long enough to score three runs in the 11th inning. 3B Matt Carpenter (.307 BA) went 5-for-5 in the game and has at least one hit in 16 of his past 17 contests. The Royals have been facing some of the toughest teams in the league over the past week, taking on the Blue Jays in a four-games series before going against the Cards in four games; two home and two away. They split their four contests against the Blue Jays and won the first two games against St. Louis before losing by a score of 5-2 on Wednesday night. They nearly made a comeback in the game, scoring twice in the ninth inning to force extra innings, only to see the contest slip away as reliever Kelvin Herrera gave up three runs in the 11th inning. SS Alcides Escobar (.274 BA) has gone 5-for-12 with 2 RBI in the first three games against St. Louis so far. The pitching matchup in this game is a great one, with two young aces, 22-year-old Michael Wacha (4-3, 2.45 ERA) and 23-year-old Yordano Ventura (2-5, 3.45 ERA) going head-to head. The Cardinals have split their 30 games on the road this season (15-15) while Kansas City is just 13-15 in front of its home crowd. St. Louis is now 8-5 in this matchup over the past three seasons while going a perfect 6-0 on the road after Wednesday’s victory. Bettors should realize that over the past two seasons, the Cardinals are 109-66 (.623) against right-handed starters while the Royals are 30-15 (.667) after batting .250 or worse over a 20-game span in the past two seasons. As far as injuries are concerned, St. Louis will continue to be without 1B Matt Adams (calf) as Kansas City still has 3B Danny Valencia (hand) on the DL.
Michael Wacha has been tearing up the league since joining the big club late last season, and has not allowed more than three runs in any of his 12 starts this year. He is striking out batters at an impressive rate (9.2 K/9) and has shown improved control while walking just 2.3 batters per nine innings and allowing just four homers in 73.1 innings on the mound. He was amazing his last time out, taking on a potent Giants offense and pitching six scoreless innings while giving up just three hits and zero walks with seven strikeouts. He has faced the Royals just once in his career, earning a no-decision in a team loss as he went seven frames while allowing just on run on two hits and no walks with six strikeouts. Of the players on the Royals who have faced Wacha, they have combined to go just 1-for-14 against him. The relievers for St. Louis have gone 5-11 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, and are only 17-for-27 (63%) in their saves. Trevor Rosenthal (4.13 ERA, 16 saves) blew his third save in 19 chances on Wednesday night and has walked 16 batters in 28.1 frames this year.
Yordano Ventura is yet another very exciting young pitcher to make his way to the majors in recent years and have instant success. His calling card is his heater, which is averaging 96 mph this season and has led to an impressive 9.3 K/9 over his 57.1 innings. Ventura’s last two outings have not gone very well though, giving up nine runs on 14 hits in just 8.2 combined frames while facing the Astros and White Sox. Before those two starts, he had put together five straight outings where he allowed three or fewer runs while going just 1-4 in his past seven outings. Ventura has yet to face the Cardinals in his career and needs to be careful when going against 3B Matt Carpenter who is 18-for-41 (.439) with six doubles, a triple, 4 RBI and seven runs over his past 10 games. On the other hand, C Yadier Molina (.300 BA) is just 2-for-21 in his past six contests while SS Jhonny Peralta (.229 BA) is just 6-for-35 (.171) with seven strikeouts in his past 10. The Royals’ bullpen is 10-9 with a 3.69 ERA and 1.31 WHIP and are 16-for-22 (73%) in save chances. But their relievers have been atrocious at home, producing a 5.19 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. Closer Greg Holland (1.59 ERA, 16 saves) has gone 16-for-17 in his save opportunities and has a wonderful 34:6 K/BB ratio in just 22.2 innings on the mound.