MLB Regular Season
Matchup: San Francisco Giants at St. Louis Cardinals
Date/Time: August 19, 7:15 p.m. ET
Pitching Matchup: Matt Cain (2-3, 6.05) vs. Jaime Garcia (5-4, 1.57)
MLB Betting Odds From BetDSI Sportsbook
Moneyline: St. Louis -165
Round two of the 2014 NLCS rematch between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals went to the reigning World Series champions as Ryan Vogelsong shut down the Cardinals offense. A series victory is on the line on Wednesday as Matt Cain takes on Jaime Garcia. Cain and Garcia have both struggled mightily with injuries over the last couple of seasons. The difference is that Cain has also struggled with performance, while Garcia has been very good when he has been healthy enough to pitch every five days. St. Louis is a hefty favorite and growing for this rubber match.
The Giants have some catching up to do in the NL Wild Card standings. They trail the Chicago Cubs by three games. The St. Louis Cardinals seem to be in cruise control. They just keep winning games. The Cardinals are up by five games on the Pirates and have the best record in baseball by 3.5 games over the Kansas City Royals. Considering the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright for the year in Spring Training and had to alter their outfield plans after Oscar Taveras tragically died in a car accident during the World Series last year, their ability to keep winning in the face of adversity has been very impressive.
Matt Cain is in danger of getting sent to the bullpen to try and work out his issues. Injuries and ineffectiveness have turned his $20.8M per season deal into a major albatross for the Giants. Cain has made just 23 starts over the last two seasons for the Giants and they haven’t gone particularly well. After accumulating 27.7 wins above replacement player from 2006-12, Cain has been worth one win over the last three seasons as his command has declined and chronic shoulder issues have zapped his ability to be effective.
Cain has a 6.05 ERA in eight starts this season and things just aren’t working out. He has allowed 52 hits in 41.2 innings and 28 runs. His advanced metrics suggest some slight positive regression with a very high HR/FB% and a .324 BABIP against, but the command just isn’t there anymore for Cain. His strikeout-to-walk ratio continues to decline as well. The Giants are a very solid defensive team, but you can’t catch home runs and line drives aren’t always going to be hit right at you. Cain has allowed four runs or more in six of his eight starts this season. Even though the Giants have a very good offense, that’s hard for any team to overcome.
Garcia returned on July 28 after missing more than a month and has allowed just four earned runs in those four starts. He threw 8.1 spectacular innings in his last start against the Marlins and pitched seven shutout innings against the Marlins in the start before that. Garcia’s season didn’t start until May 21 due to yet another injury and then he missed another month. He has been limited to 11 starts, but he has allowed more than three runs just once in those outings.
Overall, Garcia is 5-4 with a 1.57 ERA, a 3.17 FIP, and a 3.15 xFIP. His strikeout rate is nowhere near some of the K rates he posted earlier in his career, but he has made up for it this year with some good batted ball luck and an extreme ground ball rate. The Cardinals are one of the best defensive teams in baseball, which has been a big help to Garcia this season. That being said, there are some signs of regression in his stat line outside of the obvious ERA-xFIP difference. His .223 BABIP against is exceptionally low for a pitcher with a 67 percent ground ball rate. He’s allowing a lot more contact this season, which should also naturally increase his BABIP against.
MLB Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
Concerns about Jaime Garcia aside, it’s hard to back Matt Cain at any price right now with his command profile. Cain could lose his rotation spot when Mike Leake is able to return from a hamstring injury that has sent Tuesday’s starter Ryan Vogelsong into the rotation. While I rarely advocate laying anything above -140, this is certainly one of the spots where it makes sense to do that.