The St. Louis Cardinals are off to a 3-1 start in their first four games, outscoring foes by a combined margin of 24-15 in that span.  Mike Matheny’s squad continues its journey with Monday night’s series-opener against the Cincinnati Reds.

Both rivals are slated to send right-handed hurlers to the hill, with Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey opposing St. Louis’ Jake Westbrook.  MLB sportsbooks opened Bailey as a 140 home favorite but the moneyline has already dropped to -128, while first setting the total at a flat nine where it is still holding on the MLB odds board.



Bailey back for Reds

Bailey returns to Cincinnati’s rotation after a career-high 22 starts last year, notching a 9-7 record and 4.43 ERA.  The 25-year-old  went 1-1 in two starts against the Cardinals, allowing five earned runs in a combined 10 1/3 IP.

Jake WestbrookCincy’s spring action saw Bailey make five outings, with a pair of losses logged in his final three starts.  The final appearance came March 24 against the San Francisco Giants, giving up four earned runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Westbrook notches stingy spring

Westbrook made 33 starts last season in his first full year with the Cardinals, logging a 12-9 mark with a 4.66 ERA.  The 11-year veteran faced the Reds three times, notching one win and two no-decisions, including six frames of shutout ball last April.

The Cardinals’ exhibition weeks saw Westbrook go 2-1 in five appearances, allowing four earned runs in 24 IP for a 1.50 ERA.  March 31 featured Westbrook’s final start against the Washington Nationals, with four strikeouts logged en route to giving up one earned run in 5 2/3 frames.

Back the Cardinals as road dogs

Monday’s first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. (ET).  The weather forecast in Cincinnati calls for a partly cloudy 60-degrees, with 13 mph winds blowing to center field.

I am adding the Cardinals to my baseball picks for the night’s slate, taking a road-dog price of plus 120.  St. Louis has shown good form in its first stretch of matchups, while Cincinnati takes a step up in class here.

Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal has hit 10-for-19 (.526 BA), including three doubles, ranking the 34-year-old fourth in the NL’s batting.  Furcal’s mate Carlos Beltran has cracked a pair of homers, including one as part of Sunday’s 3-for-5 day in the Cardinals’ 9-3 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Furcal has a 5-for-12 lifetime mark against Bailey, while Cardinals sluggers David Freese and Lance Berkman have united for one homer each in a combined 15 AB.  St. Louis is 39-18 in its last 57 spots against right-handed starters, while notching a 15-6 mark in the team’s last 21 duels as a road dog.

Both starters could be looking at a slugfest here, with Westbrook shaping up as the better value choice.  The Cardinals finished last year going 4-1 in Westbrook’s final five starts as an underdog, while the former All-Star began the 2011 season with a 4-1 record in his first seven road outings.

Cincinnati is 5-11 in Bailey’s last 16 home starts against clubs with winning records, while going 0-4 in last year’s final four dates at Great American Ball Park against teams with at least a .600 mark in road games.  Look for Cincy to fall short again here, while St. Louis starts this set with the upper hand at a plus-odds price.