The St. Louis Cardinals are in Cincinnati tonight looking for the sweep in game three of a three-game series with the Reds. The Cardinals took game one of the series after coming back from a four-run deficit to win 8-7 in the tenth inning. Dexter Fowler was the hero in that one, as he hit a game-tying homer in the eight to force extra innings and then won it in the tenth with an RBI double. Game two was another high scoring game for the Cardinals as they took it easily 9-2, powered by homers from Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler, and Paul Dejong. Game three will feature fireball pitcher for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez (11-11 3.57 ERA) facing off against the Reds Homer Bailey (5-8 6.86 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 PM PST from Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio.
St Louis Cardinals -174 at Cincinnati Reds +149
Carlos Martinez (11-11 3.57 ERA) vs Homer Bailey (5-8 6.86 ERA)
To say this is a big game for St. Louis Cardinals tonight would be an understatement. This is an absolute must win if they are going to stay in the hunt for a playoff berth. Entering play today the Cardinals are just 2.5 games back of a fading Colorado Rockies team for the second wild-card spot in the National League. They even have a shot, albeit an unlikely one, to catch the Chicago Cubs for the Central Division title, as they are just five back with eleven games to play. It would take an epic collapse from the Cubs to make that happen, but they are the Cubs, right? One historic season doesn’t completely wipe away a hundred years of embarrassment, right? It’s not going to happen but the Cardinals are going to be putting forth their best effort in this one as they are playing for their postseason lives.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they are playing a lot of games down the stretch against this Cincinnati Reds team. Five out of their last eight games have been against the Reds, and they are 4-1 in those five games. The other three games? They got swept by the Chicago Cubs. In those four wins, the Cardinals have exploded for 35 runs, they have been swinging a hot bat against this weak Reds starting rotation. The Cards will need another big day at the plate in this one as the margin for error is a tight one.
Carlos Martinez was an All-Star this year in the National League. Heading into the break Martinez had a sub-three ERA and was amongst the league leaders in strikeouts. He has cooled off some since then, and his record can be a little deceiving at 11-11 as he has so many decisions because he tends to go deep into most games. You don’t end up with a lot of no decisions when you are regularly going seven innings or more. Martinez has gone seven innings or more eleven times this year. His 205 strikeouts are top five in the National League, with more punch outs than Jimmy Nelson, Clayton Kershaw, and Steven Strasburg, he can absolutely get guys out by himself. His counterpart tonight in Cincinnati, Homer Bailey, is much the opposite and doesn’t strike many guys out at all.
Bailey likes to pitch to contact much more than Martinez, with a K/9 inning ratio of just 6.8, Bailey isn’t someone that is going to overpower a lineup. At times that has been effective for the longtime Red, in 2012-2013, Bailey won double-digit games each season with an ERA in the mid-three range. It is not working well at all for him this season. His ERA of 6.86 is amongst the highest of all National League starters this season. In his last start against this St. Louis Cardinals team on August 6th, Bailey got wrecked for his worst outing of the year, to the tune of ten earned runs in just 3.1 innings. He has been pitching a little bit better as of late, but I see this hot Cardinals lineup getting to Bailey early and often once again.
I will keep preaching this until the season winds to a close. Give me the team that is fighting for every run and every out trying to keep a playoff dream alive against a noncompeting team all day long. Even in a matchup where the starting pitching matchup leans towards the noncompeting team, I am going to jump on the contender. In this one, featuring an All-Star pitcher that is top five in the league in strikeouts, matching up with a guy that has an ERA of almost seven? I am jumping all over it, in a big way.
I expect these hot Cardinal bats to explode on Homer Bailey, again. Martinez will get you his seven innings of three-run ball with 9-10 strikeouts, and the Cardinals will jump out to a big lead and cruise to an easy victory in this one. I love the Cardinals in this matchup and will be taking them on the run line tonight in game three. We are getting an even money +100 line on the run line, and I see tons of value in it. Give me the Cardinals -1.5 runs at +100 tonight in the series finale.
Today’s Pick: Cardinals -1.5 runs at +100