Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals looked like a new man pitching brilliantly in his first start off of the Disabled List while Mike Leake of the Reds comes off a terrible outing and has not pitched well at home. Take St. Louis on Saturday.
Two probable playoff teams square off on Saturday afternoon when Jaime Garcia and the St. Louis Cardinals (69-56 overall, 29-30 away) take on Mike Leake and the Cincinnati Reds (76-51 overall, 41-23 home) as the teams continue their weekend three-game series from Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati., OH at 4:05 ET in a game televised regionally on FOX.MLB Pick
The posted money line at Pinnacle Sports has St. Louis as a small road favorite for this contest at current odds of -109.
The Cardinals took the series opener 8-5 here last night to pull to within six games of the division leading Reds while in second place in the National League Central, and they are currently riding a four-game winning streak.
St. Louis also currently holds the second and last wild card spot in the National League, 1½ games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers are also 1½ games behind the Atlanta Braves for the first wild card spot. Keep in mind that for the first time this season, Major League Baseball has gone to two wild cards and they will play a one-game elimination game with the first wild card hosting the game.
Obviously, the Cardinals would much rather win the division and guarantee that they will play in a 4-out-of-7 series, and after overcoming a double-digit game deficit last year to get what was then the only National League wild card on the season’s final day and going on to win the World Series, we would not put it past them.
They now look to inch closer with Garcia on the hill. Garcia struggled earlier this season before going on the Disabled List, so he is just 3-4 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.37 WHIP overall, but he was apparently bothered by the shoulder inflammation that landed him on the DL, and he pitched brilliantly in his first start back on Sunday vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates, tossing eight scoreless innings while allowing only five hits with 10 strikeouts and not a single walk.
Garcia now appears ready to return to his true form that he displayed in his firs two full seasons in the Major Leagues, when he won 13 games each season while posting a spiffy 2.70 ERA in 2010 and a 3.56 ERA last season as a major contributor to St. Louis’s World Series run. He has also sparkled vs. the Reds since entering the majors, going 7-1 in nine starts against them with a 3.12 ERA, including allowing one run in seven innings the last time he faced them this year.
Cincinnati ranks third in the National League with a 3.47 team ERA, but unfortunately Leake has been a weak link, especially when pitching here at home. Leake was lit up for seven earned runs on 10 hits in just 4.1 innings by the Philadelphia Phillies in his last start on the road on Monday, leaving him at 5-8 with a 4.59 ERA overall for the year.
Leake has been at his worst when pitching at home, where he is 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA while perhaps being affected mentally by pitching in a launching pad that is the most hitter-friendly stadium in the National League. Leake is 1-2 with a bloated 5.24 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in four career starts vs. the Cardinals while generously allowing St. Louis batters to hit a whopping .322 off of him, with as fate would have it all four of those starts coming here at home.
Look for another strong outing from Garcia and for Leake to continue to struggle as the Cardinals inch closer in the division race on Saturday.
: Cardinals -109