Baseball starts early and ends late on Saturday with a bunch of games on the second-to-last day prior to the All-Star Break. One of the more interesting matchups will be in the Windy City with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs.
After a throwback day game on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the two teams will play a 6:10 p.m. CT start time to be part of the FOX choices for Saturday sports viewers. It will be Kwang Hyun Kim for the Cardinals, Zach Davies for the Cubs, and a free pick on the game for readers. The Cubs are small -115 favorites in this one per the odds at BetOnline Sportsbook.
St. Louis Cardinals
The All-Star Break cannot get here fast enough for the Cardinals. Injuries in the rotation and ineptitude on offense have taken what looked like a fairly promising season and turned it into what could be one of the worst seasons in the last 25 years for the Redbirds.
St. Louis lost 10-5 on Friday to fall to 43-46 for the season. The Cardinals were in first place as recently as May 30 and spent 31 days in the top spot. On that day, the Cardinals lost to the Diamondbacks 9-2 to fall to 30-23 and went from a half-game lead to a half-game deficit. The Cardinals now trail by nine games in the NL Central. Since beating the Diamondbacks on May 29 to improve to 29-23, St. Louis has gone 14-23, but it sure feels a lot worse than that.
The Cardinals did score five runs on Friday, but went into that game with the fourth-lowest wOBA in baseball at .295. This is an offense that has been at or near the bottom of the league for the better part of two months. They don’t make a lot of authoritative contact and hit for very little power.
Busch Stadium is a big part of that equation, but the Cardinals are also just outside the bottom five in offensive performance on the road, so they can’t pin all of their problems on the poor hitting conditions of their home ballpark.
The hope would be that Kwang Hyun Kim can pitch well and keep the Cardinals from having to score too many runs to have a chance. Kim has a 3.39 ERA with a 4.00 FIP in his 66.1 innings of work. The 32-year-old has a 2.73 ERA with a 3.96 FIP in 105.1 MLB innings after being extremely successful in the KBO. Kim does rely on pitching to contact and has exhibited good command, but those profiles can be a bit scary.
The Cubs know a thing or two about bad offense. They’ve had one for a while now themselves, though they did score 10 runs during the day game on Friday. That was even without Kris Bryant, who remains sidelined after leaving Wednesday’s game with hamstring discomfort.
Bryant had better get healthy because the Cubs appear to be trying to leverage his trade value to get some pieces for the future. Word started to circulate around on Thursday and on into Friday that the Cubs are positioning to sell. With impending free agents like Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a huge fire sale. Craig Kimbrel has an option for next season, but his name has also been discussed.
If he starts pitching better, Zach Davies could find himself elsewhere as well. Davies is another one of the impending FAs for the Cubs, but they may not find any takers for a guy with a 4.28 ERA and a 4.81 FIP. Davies has some pretty ugly peripherals with a very low strikeout rate and a high walk rate. It is not the kind of profile most teams want to gamble on, but he has only allowed eight home runs in 88.1 innings.
Davies has actually pitched better of late. He gave up eight runs in six innings on June 18, but has allowed just four runs in his other five starts since June 8. That one major blow-up stands out in a big way and was an ERA buster, but Davies threw six no-hit innings against the Dodgers on June 24 in a combined no-hitter and has not allowed more than four hits in those five starts. That one disastrous start just stands out.
Cardinals vs. Cubs Free Pick
It is hard to trust either one of these teams with your money right now, but the Cubs seem to have something to play for and that is to get out of town. The situation in Chicago seems rather toxic right now with a cheapskate billionaire owner and all of the black clouds hanging over the Trade Deadline. The Cardinals just seem to have a “woe is us” attitude with the injuries and the other issues that they’ve had. The Cubs seem to be trying harder and that could swing the balance here.