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Padres vs. Cardinals Odds
Padres Odds: +105
Cardinals Odds: -125
Time: 7:15 p.m. ET
The race for the postseason is heating up, and that makes series like this incredibly captivating.
The Cardinals currently lead the crowded race for the second Wild Card in the National League with the Padres hot on their tails, just 1 1/2 games back with two games left in this series.
With everything to play for, it makes sense that this game is close to a pick ’em, but is there an edge to be found here in the pitching matchup? Let’s have a look at the matchup.
Darvish’s Woes Highlight Friars Struggles
Yes, the pitching matchup. The Padres have been losing that for the better part of four months with Yu Darvish on the mound.
Since June 21, Darvish has posted a 6.55 ERA in 13 starts and allowed a beefy 18 home runs, including four in his most recent outing. While his spin rates haven’t totally tanked, they have never recovered and reached the heights they did in the past, and neither have his numbers.
Making matters worse, San Diego’s offense has gone ice cold. The Padres have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball since the All-Star break, and not much has changed over the last two weeks. The Friars rank 24th in wRC+, 21st in barrel rate and 21st with a .236 batting average.
There are promising signs here, like a contact rate over 78% that puts the Padres in the top half of the league and a hefty amount of hard-hit balls. With that said, they’re still walking in less than 8% of their plate appearances, which is bad, and have the second-highest called strike rate in baseball.
The Padres could be getting unlucky, or they could just be a bit unsure at the plate. I’d bet on the latter, given the prolonged issues they’ve faced.
St. Louis Cardinals
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
The Cardinals have three, maybe four teams after them in the Wild Card race.
The Reds are just a game back. The Padres are only 1 1/2 out. Philadelphia lurks 2 1/2 games out, and the Mets are six back. St. Louis has certainly earned the postseason place with six wins in a row and eight in its last nine, but now comes the hard part -- hanging on.
The peripherals would seem to point to this run being unsustainable, at least if the Cardinals have to rely on their bats. They have the second-worst hard-hit rate over the past week but do rank third-best in OPS despite a 6.4% walk rate and a strikeout rate north of 23%.
While there have been some timely homers -- and a few in Friday’s win -- the totality of the Cardinals’ offensive approach hasn’t been all that attractive.
Luckily, Adam Wainwright has been lights out this year, and he comes into this one after six shutout innings in a win over the Mets in his last start.
Wainwright’s 2.88 ERA is backed by a higher, but still solid, 3.83 xERA and a good .299 xwOBA. He’s kept walks to a minimum and has matched his highest strikeout rate in the Statcast era. Considering how good he’s been at limiting barrels and homers, he should have what it takes to quiet these Padres bats.
You can make whatever inference you want based on the above numbers -- and I do think the Cards’ day of reckoning is around the corner -- but I have no choice but to back St. Louis here. While the Cardinals haven’t been smacking the ball, they will face a guy giving up rockets off the bat in Darvish.
We’ve seen enough from both of these veteran starters this year to know what to expect, and that would be for Wainwright to out-pitch Darvish by a considerable margin. With two offenses that have been equally unproductive, that would lead me to side with the home team here.
Perhaps tomorrow is the day to back the Friars, but it isn’t today.
Pick: Cardinals ML (-125)