Tonight at 7:15 CST, Cards’ Carlos Martinez (2-3, 3.91 ERA) faces off against the Pirates Vance Worley (2-1, 2.28 ERA) in a rubber match to determine who will be in second place in a crowded NL Central. With six games left before the break for both the Cardinals and Pirates and seven left for the Reds, each team has a golden opportunity to create a little bit of separation this week from the other two. After the Cardinals’ series, the Pirates go on to play three against the Reds and the Cardinals move on to battle the first place Milwaukee Brewers.

Carlos Martinez will start the game for the Cardinals tonight and while his results of late have been a mixed bag, the Cardinals have yet to lose a game he started. Martinez however has not gone very deep into a game because he started the season as a reliever, so Cards’ fans should hope for better pitch efficiency out of him or risk seeing the long relief guys come out in the sixth inning. This Pirates’ lineup is also relatively new to facing Martinez as no batter has more than 4 at-bats against him. However, some Pirates have had high levels of success in such a small sample size with Jordy Mercer 2 for 2 with a double and Neil Walker 1 for 3 with a home run against Martinez.

The Pirates acquired Vance Worley from the Phillies in mid-June to bolster their ailing and ineffective pitching staff. Since then Worley has compiled an impressive 2.28 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Perhaps Worley’s biggest strength in four starts this year is simply keeping the opponent from getting hits. Worley’s .210 batting average against is impressive and doesn’t bode well for this anemic Cardinals’ offense. For his career, however, Matt Carpenter is 3 for 3 with a double off of Worley, but all of those hits came back in 2012.

The Skinny: Hopefully Martinez can pitch late into the game and this offense can get to Worley early despite his recent run of success. I hate to say it, but these next three games are must win for the Cardinals if they want to stay in this pennant race. At least two out of three is what the Cards need going into a decisive series with Milwaukee.

The Lineup:

  1. Matt Carpenter 3B
  2. Jon Jay CF
  3. Matt Holliday LF
  4. Matt Adams 1B
  5. Yadier Molina C
  6. Jhonny Peralta SS
  7. Oscar Taveras RF
  8. Kolten Wong 2B
  9. Martinez P