June 4-5 – St. Louis at Kansas City


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The Cardinals struggles through the month of May have continued into June as the I-70 series heads west to complete an abbreviated home and away series at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.

royals logoThe Royals (28-30, 5 games out) can improve to .500 for the first time since May 24 with a sweep of the Cardinals in the final two games.  Picked my some analysts to reach the playoffs for the first time since defeating the Cardinals in 1985, the Royals have hung around the .500 mark all season, from a high of 2 games over to a recent low of 4 games under.  While the Royals record is certainly trending in the right direction, a lack of offense has prompted them to rearrange their on-field staff, with former Cubs manager, Dale Sveum taking over as the hitting coach, the Royals fifth in three seasons.   The Royals are currently 12th in averate (.254), 21st in runs scored (227) and dead last in home runs (26).  The Cardinals are right there with them at 15th in average (.252), 23rd in runs scored (225) and next to last in home runs (32).  Could that mean that John Mabry is on the hot seat in St. Louis ?

At 5 games out of first place, the Royals, a 10.5% chance to make the playoffs, are in something of a predicament heading into the trade season.  They are close enough that a good week could change those odds significantly.  A two game sweep of the Cardinals in St. Louis could well be the start of that week.  The month of June will tell whether they are sellers or buyers at the trade deadline.  James Shields, a free agent at the end of this season, has been linked to the Toronto Blue Jays in possible trade rumors.

cardinalsFor the Cardinals (30-29, 5 games behind), all that we can say about April May  is that they survived it. Though continuing to struggle around the .500 mark, the Cardinals still carry a 55% chance to make the playoffs, something that fans watching the last few games may scoff at.

The early season stress placed upon the young Cardinals bullpen is beginning to show up in the box score as the Cardinals have started leaking runs in the late innings.  While Trevor Rosenthal is starting to regain his form from 2013, Carlos Martinez is looking more and more lost with each outing.  The lone bright spots in the bullpen are off season acquisition, Pat Neshek and the recently called up Sam Freeman, though the “small sample size” warning should be applied in Freeman’s case.

The sputtering Cardinals offense showed some signs of life in the second game of the series, prompting some short lived enthusiasm.  The bullpen failed to hold a slim late inning lead and the Royals took both games at Busch Stadium.   If there is anything positive to take into the final two games of this series, it will be that the Royals will have to face the top of the Cardinals rotation in Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha.  Though he stumbled in his last outing, Wainwright is on a Cy Young type of pace this season.

Probable Pitchers

Wednesday, June 4 – 7:10pm CDT

Adam Wainwright (8-3, 2.32) vs Jason Vargas (5-2, 3.39)

Adam Wainwright will try to become the National League’s first 9 game winner as the takes the mound for the Cardinals in the short series opener.  Wainwright is 4-1 with a 3.21 ERA and a save in 6 starts and 3 career relief appearances against the Royals.

His opponent will be Jason Vargas, a veteran left hander, who has pitched well for the Royals.   He does throw inside which could prove most interesting for a young hitter like Oscar Taveras.  While Kauffman is a spacious ballpark, a mistake that isn’t far enough inside to Taveras and not even the K will be able to contain that kind of blast.

Vargas is something of a mystery to most of the Cardinals roster.  Mark Ellis has hit him well in the past, so don’t be surprised if he gets the start over Kolten Wong, in spite of Wong’s first career home run last night.

TV: Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Kansas City

Radio: KMOX (1120), KCSP (610)

Thursday, June 5 – 7:10 pm CDT

Michael Wacha (4-3, 2.45) vs Yordano Ventura (2-5, 3.45)

Michael Wacha continues to be the unfortunate victim of lack of run support.  And bad weather.  There is a chance of rain for this game – of course there is.   If there was any question about Michael Wacha, his six shutout innings against the Giants on May 31 should put those to an end.   Perhaps it was just a bout of dead arm, but his strikeout rates were declining and his walk rate increasing – not a good sign.  But he was as good as we’ve seen in his last start.  A relatively low pitch count due to a rain delay may play in Wacha’s advantage in the series finale.

The Royals have opted to go a different direction than the Cardinals in the case of their former No. 2 prospect, Yordano Ventura.  The 23 year old right hander has an electric arm with a huge fastball, good curve and deceptive off speed pitches.  That pitch assortment has future closer written all over it, but the Royals are keeping him in the rotation for now.  Many Cardinals fans have been pleading for a similar treatment for Carlos Martinez in St. Louis.  Ventura had to leave the his last start with elbow soreness after just 3 innings, prompting the Royals to skip him the last time through the rotation.  He will make the start in the finale of this four game series on 9 days rest, and a big question mark.

TV: Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Kansas City

Radio: KMOX (1120), KCSP (610)

Injury Update – Kansas City

Luke Hochevar (RHP) is out for the season, recovering from Tommy John surgery in March.

Danny Valencia (3B) was placed on the 15 day disabled list on June 1 with a sprained muscle in his left hand.

Bruce Chen (LHP) is on the 15 day disabled list with a bulging disc.  He has started a rehab program with the Royals AA Affiliate in Northwest Arkansas.

Injury Update – St. Louis

Matt Adams (1B) was placed on the 15 day disabled list on may 29 with left calf tightness.  Oscar Taveras was called up to take Adams place on the active roster.  The Adams injury is not presumed to be serious and he should come back on or around the 15 days required.

Keith Butler (RHP) is out for the season, recovering from Tommy John surgery.  Butler told fans via Twitter that his surgery went well and he is optimistic for a full recovery.

Joe Kelly (RHP) continues to remain on the disabled list with a hamstring injury.  He has started throwing from flat ground, but no timetable for his return as been set.

Tyler Lyons (LHP) is on the 15 day disabled list with a shoulder strain.  He has started throwing again, but there is no timetable for a possible return to the Cardinals.

Kevin Siegrist (LHP) has begun throwing and may return to the Cardinals some time in June.

 

This series preview has been written by Bob Netherton, from the mostly historical blog On the Outside Corner,  You can also find Bob on Twitter during game time at @CardinalTales.

We hope that you have been enjoying these Cardinals series previews.  If you are not already receiving these by email, please see the Bird’s Eye View Registration.

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