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Game Preview: Cardinals Set to Face Struggling Rays

Playing against the Rays for the first time since 2011, the Cardinals kick off a two-game series at Tropicana Field at 6:10 CST tonight. Here’s what you need to know:

Recent History: The Cardinals come in having recorded consecutive shutouts, while the Rays have been shutout the past two games. The slumping Rays have lost 13 of their past 14 games and possess MLB’s worst record at 24-41. The Cardinals took two of three games from the red-hot Toronto Bluejays this past weekend, while the Rays lost three of four games at home against the Seattle Mariners.

Pitching Matchup: Cardinals veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright (8-3, 2.31 ERA) takes the mound tonight. In his previous start, Wainwright was stellar as he pitched eight innings and allowed just four hits and two earned runs at Kansas City. He ended up taking a no decision, but the Cardinals prevailed 5-2 in extra innings.

Adam Wainwright

To make matters even worse for the Rays, Wainwright has been even better on the road this season, compiling a 5-2 record and a 1.68 ERA over eight road starts. In his only start against the Rays, Wainwright struggled by allowing four runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings, but that was all the way back in 2008. Wainwright will be aiming to become the first NL pitcher to record nine wins.

On the other side, Rays 24-year old pitcher Jake Odorizzi (2-6, 5.31 ERA) will be facing off against Wainwright. Odorizzi took the loss in his last start against the Marlins, pitching just five innings and giving up four runs on seven hits. Additionally, Odorizzi has an 0-3 record with a 6.16 ERA in his last four starts. Nonetheless, Odorizzi is a better pitcher at home, recording a 3.60 ERA so far this season. Odorizzi has never faced the Cardinals.

Wong Expected to Return: After missing all three games in Toronto, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong is expected to be in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Rays. Wong left Thursday’s game at Kansas City with shoulder pain and was taken out of the lineup in Toronto. Wong was the National League Rookie of the Month for May and is batting .258 in 37 games for the Cards.

The Bottom Line: Whenever Wainwright takes the mound, the pitching matchup almost always favors the Cardinals; it’s just a matter of whether the Cards bats will show up. Yet, there are other factors that tip the balance in the Cardinals’ favor. The Rays are batting just .225 and averaging 2.5 runs per game during their recent slide, and they have been shutout four times in the past nine games. For the Cardinals, they lead the Major Leagues with 12 shutouts this season and may be on the upswing, as they won their past two games in dominant fashion against the AL East-leading Bluejays after losing 9 of 12 games prior to that. All of this portends to a victory in the cards tonight, and it will be tough for the Rays, even with the help of a Seminole medicine man, to overcome Wainwright’s pitching. The Cards will be looking to improve the team’s 33-31 record and gain ground on the Brewers.

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