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St. Louis Cardinals Series Preview: The I-70 series is reignited

The two best MLB teams in Missouri meet for a two-game series that we’ll either never forget or never remember.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals will take a short jaunt down I-70 to head to the home of pizza on a cracker, St. Louis, Missouri. There, they’ll take on the Cardinals, who are lucky enough to play in front of fans who have dubbed themselves the “best” fans in baseball. Vocabulary is difficult for some. Most self-righteous works a little better for me, but who am I to argue with the toasted ravioli aficionado. The Cardinals, of course, are basically always good. Their last sub-.500 season came in 2007. Before that, it was 1999. But when it comes to playing the Royals in the World Series, they obviously ducked them in 2014 by losing to the Giants. This year, they look like a pretty good team after that crazy finish to end last year and make the playoffs. It’s a deep lineup that was made deeper by acquiring a solid DH platoon of Corey Dickerson and the legendary Albert Pujols. Their starting rotation has upside, but there’s also plenty of downside there as their best starter is 40-years old and their fifth starter is electric, but he’s thrown 38.2 innings since 2018. I think their bullpen is good enough, though, so they should continue their stretch of winning seasons at the very least.

Reminder: All stats are from 2021 until probably the start of the White Sox series on April 26.

Royals vs. Cardinals Matchup Stats

Category Royals Cardinals
Category Royals Cardinals
Winning % .457 .556
H2H Wins 1 5
Team wRC+ 89 97
Team xFIP 4.52 4.66
Run Differential -102 34
Highest Returning fWAR Nicky Lopez, 4.4 Tyler O'Neill, 5.4

Cardinals Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Dylan Carlson RF 619 .266 .343 .437 9.2% 24.6% 113 2.8
Paul Goldschmidt 1B 679 .294 .365 .514 9.9% 20.0% 138 4.9
Tyler O'Neill LF 537 .286 .352 .560 7.1% 31.3% 144 5.4
Nolan Arenado 3B 653 .255 .312 .494 7.7% 14.7% 113 4.0
Albert Pujols DH 296 .236 .284 .433 4.7% 15.2% 90 -0.2
Paul DeJong SS 402 .197 .284 .390 8.7% 25.6% 86 1.6
Yadier Molina C 473 .252 .297 .370 5.1% 16.7% 83 1.0
Harrison Bader CF 401 .267 .324 .460 6.7% 21.2% 110 3.4
Tommy Edman 2B 691 .262 .308 .387 5.5% 13.7% 91 2.3

Cardinals Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Andrew Knizner C 185 .174 .281 .236 10.8% 21.1% 50 -1.0
Edumundo Sosa INF 326 .271 .346 .389 5.2% 19.3% 104 1.6
Corey Dickerson OF 365 .271 .326 .408 6.8% 18.6% 100 0.8
Lars Nootbaar OF 124 .239 .317 .422 10.5% 22.6% 100 0.6

Cardinals Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Giovanny Gallegos 71 69.2 4 5 26.5% 5.7% 1.29 2.60 2.2
Genesis Cabrera 81 77.1 6 7 21.3% 11.4% 3.49 4.40 -0.1
Ryan Helsey 34 33.2 1 1 34.0% 12.1% 2.94 3.71 0.6

The Matchups

April 12 - Daniel Lynch vs. Dakota Hudson, 6:45pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Daniel Lynch 15 68.0 4 6 17.7% 10.0% 5.69 5.22 0.5
Dakota Hudson 2 8.1 1 0 17.6% 2.9% 2.08 3.90 0.3

Daniel Lynch remains the likely most talented pitcher from that 2018 draft and the one with the highest upside. He showed that upside in a seven-start stretch after his recall when he went 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in 40.1 innings. He allowed less than a hit per inning and while he probably walked a few too many, he looked like the guy you want toward the front of a rotation. Mostly. He still wasn’t getting strikeouts, which is a bit of a concern. But he was limiting hard contact and he was starting to get some grounders as he did in the minors. The strikeouts still weren’t there this spring, but the grounders were and with this Royals defense behind him, that should help quite a bit if he can maintain that. A few swings and misses would be nice too, but maybe those will come as he develops with the help of Zack Greinke.

Career vs. STL: First appearance


Dakota Hudson gets the start in this one after the Cardinals were rained out on Monday. He had Tommy John Surgery in September of 2020 and came back last year for just a few innings at the big league level but is said to be fully ready to go this season. He works a lot with his sinker and it gets him more than a few grounders, which is a good strategy given how good the Cardinals infield defense is behind him. He also has a slider, curve and four-seam fastball, though he didn’t use much of the fastball in his brief return in 2021. Control has always been an issue for Hudson and while he only walked one in his 8.2 innings last season, it would be foolish to think that in his first full year back that he may not have some control issues at some point.

Career vs KC: 3 G, 2 GS 12.2 IP, 1-0, 2.13 ERA

April 13 - Zack Greinke vs. Adam Wainwright, 12:15pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Zack Greinke 30 171.0 11 6 17.2% 5.2% 4.16 4.21 1.3
Adam Wainwright 32 206.1 17 7 21.0% 6.0% 3.05 3.87 3.8

Greinke’s first start back with the Royals was generally a success. He just didn’t get many swings and misses and only ended up with one strikeout. He kept the ball on the ground well, though, which is definitely a plus with the defense behind him. And the conditions were absolutely brutal, so I don’t know how much stock you can put into much of anything from that first game. I’d like to see more swings and misses even though he’s not the strikeout pitcher he once was. And I’m also quite curious about his slider usage. I mentioned on Inside the Crown that he used it more and he also said that was a goal of his heading into the season. The Cardinals, as a team, did poorly against sliders from right-handed pitchers last year, hitting .208 with a .368 SLG.

Career vs. STL: 21 G, 19 GS, 128.1 IP, 13-6, 3.58 ERA


The career arc of Adam Wainwright is truly fascinating. He looked like he was done a few years ago. And then he came back and was sort of fine, but then in 2020, he looked like he could pitch for 10 more years. But it was a short season, which probably allowed him some leeway on the way he pitched and prepared and then he went out last year and was every bit as good, if not better. It’s quite amazing. He throws his sinker at 88-89, but the bread and butter is and always has been his fantastic curve. Opponents simply can’t square it up. But the Pirates did square up his sinker, so that’s the pitch Royals hitters will need to hone in on if they want a shot at him.

Career vs. KC: 15 G, 12 GS, 85.1 IP, 6-3, 3.90 ERA

Prediction

The whole history between these two teams doesn’t truly matter given that there are players who will take the field this week who weren’t even born when interleague play started, but it’s still interesting to me that the Royals are 27-28 against the Cardinals in St. Louis, but 23-45 at home against them. With this series in St. Louis, I’m going to go with the history and say they split. I’m excited to see the matchup of two of the only players in baseball older than me on Wednesday.

Poll

Who takes this short series?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    Royals Sweep
    (35 votes)
  • 43%
    Nobody, it’s a split
    (73 votes)
  • 35%
    Cardinals Sweep
    (59 votes)
167 votes total Vote Now