After a 5-1 home stand, the Colorado Rockies (58-42, 2nd in the NL West) will head to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals (47-51, 4th in the NL Central). The successful home stand has pushed the Rockies into sole possession of first place in the NL Wild Card race and, according to Baseball Prospectus, their playoff odds are now up to 79.8 percent. The team could still use an addition or two prior to the trade deadline a week from today, especially in the bullpen. What was seen earlier in the year as a major strength of the team has now become their biggest weakness as Mike Dunn, Jake McGee, Scott Oberg, and Adam Ottavino have all been either inconsistent or downright awful.
The Cardinals come into the series looking to close the gap on the NL Central leading Brewers. They trail by four games in the division but the Cubs and Pirates are also ahead of them in the standings. It’s been a tough year for the Cards who were projected to be very much in the playoff race before the season but now sit with a 17 percent chance of making the playoffs. They will likely be looking to sell a few pieces prior to the deadline, most notably Lance Lynn who will start the second game of the series.
The Cardinals offense has struggled to find consistency all season. They have dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness at nearly every position. Dexter Fowler has struggled to replicate the success he had the last few years with the Cubs aside from his career high home run pace. Randall Grichuk was optioned earlier in the year to try to get his swing back on track. Aledmys Diaz was recently optioned for the same reason. Kolton Wong and Stephen Piscotty have dealt with injuries. Matt Carpenter struggled badly for the first three months of the season before picking it up in July. Matt Adams was traded to the Braves and has since forced Freddie Freeman to third base. Jedd Gyorko was lighting it up early in the year but has slumped over the last few weeks. The only consistent pieces on offense have been Yadier Molina and Tommy Pham.
Starting Pitching Notes
The Cardinals starting staff has been one of the most reliable in baseball this season. The 5-man rotation has started all but one game for the Cards this season and they boast a 3.80 ERA and an 8.2 WAR. The Rockies will see Mike Leake, Lynn, and Carlos Martinez this weekend.
After a great start to the season, Leake has struggled a bit in his last ten starts with an ERA just over 5.00. He's a ground ball specialist and owns the highest rate on the team. Lynn has been involved in trade rumors lately as he is in the final year of his contract. A little digging into his batted ball profile however points to a pitcher prime for a regression. Martinez is the flame-throwing ace of the rotation. He's had a few bumps in the road this season but his stuff can be as overpowering as any pitcher in the league.
The Cards bullpen has been largely mediocre this season. Almost all their bullpen numbers rank right in the middle of the league. The only area they really stand out in is their 14 blown saves, tied for third most in the league. The closer situation is a bit of an unknown as Seung Hwan Oh has struggled all year and seven different players have recorded a save for the team. Trevor Rosenthal is the most intriguing late inning option but the hard-throwing righty has had his far share of struggles as well.
The Cardinals have been pretty rocky defensively this season. Although their 26 Defensive Rubs Saved (DRS) is the fifth most in baseball, their pitchers have accounted for over half their DRS. In fact, the only position where they have more than three DRS is at third base. They've also committed 63 errors this season, the eighth most in baseball.
During the past six games, the Rockies offense scored 52 runs, hit 12 home runs, slugged .681, had a 44.3 percent hard contact rate, and a wRC+ of 164. On the other hand, Rockies pitchers had a 5.80 ERA, 4.8 BB/9, a 1.73 WHIP, and just a 16.8 percent strikeout rate. It sure would be nice if the offense and pitching staff could sync up.
The Rockies face a tough pitching staff so carrying the momentum the team built on the home stand will be very important. The Cardinals offense has been inconsistent this year but they still have a talented roster that can do some damage. It will be important for the pitching staff to eat up innings and not allow the bullpen to come on and surrender a close lead. This is a .500 team and if the Rockies offense can keep hitting they should be able to win this road series.
Probable Pitchers and Schedule
Monday, July 24 @ 6:08 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Antonio Senzatela (10-3, 4.67 ERA) vs. Mike Leake (6-8, 3.39 ERA)
Tuesday, July 25 @ 6:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Jon Gray (3-1, 6.19 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (8-6, 3.30 ERA)
Wednesday, July 26 @ 6:10 pm MT (ATT SportsNet, 850KOA/94.1)
Jeff Hoffman (6-1, 5.10 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (6-8, 3.34 ERA)