The St. Louis Cardinals look to extend the longest current winning streak in baseball when they host the Houston Astros in the second game of a weekend series on Saturday night. St. Louis won its sixth straight on Friday night, rallying behind a Paul Goldschmidt three-run homer for a 5-3 victory.
The win helped St. Louis take sole possession of first place in the National League Central, one game ahead of the Chicago Cubs, who fell to Milwaukee on Friday night. Houston lost for the second time in three games after its own six-game winning streak but still comfortably leads the American League West by eight games over second-place Oakland.
The moneyline for this contest has the Houston Astros -190 and the St. Louis Cardinals +175. The over/under has been set at 8.5.
The Astros will send Gerrit Cole to the mound for his 23rd start of the season tonight. Cole is currently 11-5 and on a seven-game winning streak, with his last loss coming on May 22. He has gone at least six innings in each of his 11 starts since that loss, racking up double-digit strikeouts in seven of those starts. Cole leads all of baseball with 205 strikeouts, getting to the 200-strikeout plateau in the second shortest time in league history.
The Astros’ offense has talent to spare, which is why they’ve been able to continue to win despite dealing with multiple injuries throughout the season. Michael Brantley leads the Astros with a .326 batting average, and he showed off his power Friday night with his 16th home run of the season. Third baseman Alex Bregman has the most home runs on Houston with 26, but it’s been Yuri Gurriel who has been lighting it up in July, hitting 12 home runs and driving in 28 in 20 games.
Red Hot Redbirds
Speaking of a hot hitter, Goldschmidt’s home run on Friday night was his fifth straight game with a home run. He’s come alive since the All-Star break, and the Cardinals’ run to first place has coincided with it. But it hasn’t just been Goldschmidt, as players like Kolten Wong, Paul DeJong, Jose Martinez, and Tommy Edman have come up with clutch hits during the streak. St. Louis is doing this winning even with Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Marcell Ozuna on the injured list, so the Cardinals could get even stronger in the coming weeks even without a trade at the deadline.
Right-hander Daniel Ponce de Leon will take the mound for St. Louis in this one, looking to improve on his 1-0 record. Ponce de Leon has a 2.82 ERA in nine appearances this season, six of those being starts. The 27-year-old has had some trouble in his last two starts, going three innings in his last one after going just 3 2/3 in the start before that. He needs to last a little longer against a stacked Houston offense, though he will need better control, having walked six batters in his previous 6 2/3 innings.
Astros Even Series
St. Louis has been on a great roll, but they haven’t faced a pitcher like Cole during that span. The Cardinals have the fourth-fewest strikeouts in the National League, but Cole gets every team in trouble with his pitching. The Astros’ lineup will likely feast on Ponce de Leon in this one. I’m going with Houston -190 to get the win.