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Series Preview: Yadier Molina is back and so are the Cardinals

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They’ve also played four games in the past two days.

St Louis Cardinals v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

No doubt, this will be the most-read article on the site today. It’s Labor Day, the first game starts at 11am, the Giants are basically a sneeze away from total playoff elimination. There’s no question that people will be clamoring to read a preview of a September series that only means something to the Cardinals. This is why I write.

But I don’t actually care about what happens in this series, and neither should you. The sneeze is going to happen whether we like it or not, and the rest of the season will just be a matter of wondering if the Giants win 75 or 77 games. After this series, we might wonder if they even crack 70, but I’m going to assume they will, at some point.

Last night’s broadcast made heavy mention of the Cardinals having played back to back doubleheaders (they won three of the four games), figuring the Giants will be getting a tired team and will be able to take advantage. I respectfully disagree! They will be facing a tired, playoff-bound team with something to lose. Most of the Giants are already playing for the offseason. Maybe some for Bochy. The rest for 2020.

Tyler Beede’s rotation spot is no guarantee, but he’s getting more opportunities than Shaun Anderson mainly because of his strikeout stuff. Still, it’s not hard to see the Cardinals rattling him early and bashing a bunch of home runs to put game one away by the third inning. On the other hand, a steady Beede could also get going, if in fact the Cardinals are a little bit tired after all those doubleheaders.

But hear me out. The Giants aren’t playing for anything this year. Why is Tyler Beede starting today? It seems to me that if you’re looking to, I don’t know, trade Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, then you might want to setup a showcase for a possible suitor. Tyler Beede’s road ERA is nearly 1.5 runs higher than his home ERA, and when you just go down the line, every road number is heavily inflated.

The Cardinals could’ve faced both Samardzija and Bumgarner in the same series. Sure, that didn’t do anything against the Padres, but it might’ve meant something against the Cardinals. The Giants won two of three from the Cardinals in the series before the All-Star break, dropping St. Louis to 44-44. They faced both Bumgarner (who left his game early after being hit by a line drive) and Samardzija (who pitched seven shutout innings).

Since then, the Cardinals have gone 32-16. St. Louis vaulted from a fringe Wild Card contender to the top of the NL Central despite not making any moves at the trade deadline. The Giants have gone 25-22, and improved themselves largely because of a group of guys they acquired well before the deadline. St. Louis didn’t fade, though, because the core of their roster just tsarted playing better. That’s really all that happened. Paul Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, Marcell Ozuna, Kolten Wong, Dexter Fowler, and the entire bullpen just played better.

The Giants have been good on the road, but at this point in the season, the Cardinals are the far better team. So, please, enjoy your barbecue today. Think nothing of the Giants.

Hitter to watch

Let’s do it. Yadier Molina has experienced a late-career, late-season surgeaissance. Not saying he’s an All-Star again, but since returning from a thumb tendon sprain in the middle of August, he’s hit .344/.417/.594 in 72 PA with 4 home runs. The Cardinals, who were already averaging 4.64 runs in his absence, have scored 5.65 runs/game since his return and have gone 20-5 over that same span.

It’s very hard to not draw comparisons between the Cardinals’ Hall of Fame catcher and the Giants’. Posey hasn’t had a huge series in nearly two years. Now would be as good a time as any.

Pitcher to watch

Giovanny Gallegos has struck out 80 in 61.1 IP and walked just 12. That’s a 6.67 K/BB. His strikeout rate of 34% is 95th percentile in baseball. He’s a Baseball Savant darling. Great spin on the fastball, tops in xBA, xwOBA, and xSLG (the x-stats mean “expected”, based on the quality of contact). He’ll get multi-inning hold opportunities should they present themselves.

Left-handed batters don’t appear to have an edge against him, either, as their .144/.206/.267 line is worse than right-handed batters’ .177/.226/.282.

Prediction

The Cardinals will win today’s game and two more in the series. Somehow, the Giants will avoid a sweep.