So, here we go – Cardinals vs. Reds for three games and a battle for first place on the line. It’s Aug. 9 now, which means there are less than two months left in the regular season. The Cards are two games back going into tonight, thanks to the stellar (ha!) effort by the Cubs this weekend in allowing the Reds to sweep them.
In other words, these games are pretty big.
The Cardinals have a slight lead over the Reds this season, with a 7-5 record, and this will be the fifth series between the two teams. The Cards won two out of three in Cincinnati to open the season (with the winning pitchers being Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright), took two of three in St. Louis in late April/early May (Ryan Franklin and Carp were the winners), lost two of three on their last trip to Cincinnati in mid May (Jaime Garcia was the lone winner) and finally won two of three in late May/early June (with more victories for Jaime and Carp). The last victory over the Reds, on June 2, put the Cards into a first-place tie with the Reds.
In the time since, the Cards and Reds have battled back and forth for first place. No doubt the Reds have held that spot longer, and once had a three-game lead over the Cards, plus right now they are definitely on a roll – they’ve won four in a row and nine of their last 11 games. The Cardinals are 6-4 over their last 10 games (which includes the two unfortunate Diamond Diaries nights at the ballpark) and are only one game back in the loss column, with 49 total losses to the Reds 48. (Cards have 61 wins to the Reds 64.)
The pitching matchups couldn’t be better: our Big Three against their top three.
Chris Carpenter (12-3, 2.91 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (7-3, 3.86 ERA)
Carp is 3-0 against the Reds this year, with a 1.29 ERA and has held the Reds to a .157 batting average. Leake is 1-0 in one game started against the Cards with a 3.00 ERA and the Cards have a .190 average against him.
Jaime Garcia (9-5, 2.53 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (11-2, 3.24 ERA)
Jaime’s won both of his starts against the Reds this season, with a 2.92 ERA and the Reds hitting .245. Cueto has started three times against the Cards and has a 1-0 record with a 6.75 ERA (he’s allowed 12 earned runs in 16 innings pitched) and the Cards are hitting .308 off him.
Adam Wainwright (16-6, 2.06 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (12-6, 3.83 ERA)
Adam is 1-1 against the Reds, with a 4.15 ERA (allowing six earned runs in 13 innings) but the Reds are only hitting .222 against him and he has 12 strikeouts. Arroyo also is 1-1 in three starts against the Cards this season and has a 4.22 ERA, with the Cards hitting .256 against him.
Slugging-wise, Albert Pujols is hitting .381 against the Reds this season with three homers and 12 RBI and is batting 1.000 against Leake. (It’s only one at-bat, but does that matter?) Matt Holliday is hitting .325 against the Reds with two home runs and 10 RBI, while Jon Jay is hitting .438 with one homer and four RBI. And, with Carp pitching tonight, maybe he’ll hit another grand slam like he did against the Reds last season. (Probably not, but I can always hope to see a repeat of that!)
With 12 hours until game time, I can still say that these games are going to be fun. It’s going to be playoff-type baseball, with possible post-season implications on the line. But, by tonight, I know watching these games will be excruciating – like all Cardinals fans, what I want most is a sweep over the Reds. Let’s see how it goes …
And go Cardinals!
P.S.: This is Diamond Diaries post number 100. Thanks to each of you for reading. We appreciate your support!