With the Cards winning their last six out of seven games, the team has propelled itself into the heart of the NL playoff race. The Cards still sit 2.5 games behind the Brewers for the division lead, but they are 2.5 games ahead in the Wild Card race. Tonight, the slumping Reds, who have lost eight of 10, play at Busch tonight in the second game of this three-game series.
The Pitching Matchup: John Lackey (12-8, 3.91 ERA) makes his fourth start as a Cardinal since coming over from the BoSox before the trading deadline. Although Lackey has posted a 6.16 ERA in those starts, that stat does not resemble how he has pitched as a whole for the Cards, mainly because Lackey had a disastrous start on the road in Baltimore, allowing nine earned runs on 13 hits in five innings of work. Yet, Lackey has been spectacular at home, going seven innings and allowing two runs in each of those starts. Against the Reds hitters, Lackey has limited them to just a .194 batting average, so chances are he will fare pretty well tonight.
For the Reds, Alfredo Simon (12-8, 3.28 ERA) takes the mound in the hope of returning to the pitcher he was before the All-Star break. In six starts since the break, Simon has recorded a 5.46 ERA, and that’s not because of just one bad start; he has consistently struggled in each of those starts. Furthermore, Simon has surprisingly struggled in night games, accumulating a 4.13 ERA in 14 starts. Lefties are hitting .250 against Simon, compared to .231 for righties, so expect Jon Jay to continue his hot streak and for Matt Adams to have a big game, who is 2 for 2 with a homer against Simon in his career.
The Skinny: Lackey has pitched phenomenally at Busch so far this year, and Simon doesn’t look like the same pitcher he was before the All-Star break, so I expect another Cards victory. The Cards are playing at home and have all the momentum, and in order to sustain the momentum, the Cards offense will have to continue its hot stretch.