August 30 (Game 1): Cubs (60-74) @ Cardinals (71-62)
Weather permitting, the Cardinals and Cubs will play two at Busch Stadium today as the Cards look to rebound after being overpowered by the Cubs’ youngsters on Friday. It looks like the Cubs are positioned to play a sizeable role in the outcome of the National League Central, as their new-look club has six games remaining against each of the three contending teams. The Cardinals, after a 5-1 homestand, have since lost five of seven. They’re fortunate that the Brewers have lost three straight and therefore been unable to expand upon a 1.5-game lead.
There are some starting pitching concerns for the Cardinals today, as they are sending out two pitchers (Justin Masterson, game 1; Marco Gonzales, game 2) who have had trouble pitching deep. Of course, Gonzales’ big-league sample size is tiny (three games). The Cardinals have long relievers Nick Greenwood and Tyler Lyons in the ‘pen for help, so there is some coverage. The added wrinkle could be the weather, as it is supposed to rain on and off for most of the day. The Cards (and Cubs) could be in a bind if in-game delays force them into their bullpen earlier than expected.
As for Masterson, he is pitching for his rotation spot today. Now a month into his tenure with the Cardinals, Masterson has given the Cardinals just one strong start (out of five). He has worked to simplify his mechanics again, but if the Cubs knock him around this afternoon, it is hard to envision the Cardinals giving him another start during an important final month.
Manager Mike Matheny noted that all 12 position players will get a start in one of the two games today. That means you can expect to see Yadier Molina behind the plate, Oscar Taveras and Peter Bourjos in the outfield, and Kolten Wong back at second base in Game 2. Molina’s familiarity with Gonzales and A.J. Pierzynski’s working relationship with Masterson played into the decision to have Molina start the second game.
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