The St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals open a two-game I-70 series in Kansas City on Tuesday. The Royals return home after a road trip in which they hit a franchise-record 22 home runs. The Royals were 3-6 on the road trip, but it wasn’t the offense that let them down.
Jorge Soler hit seven homers in the 10-game stretch to bring his season total to 35. Hunter Dozier also set a franchise record by having three multi-homer games on the road trip. St. Louis activated Yadier Molina from the IL and placed outfielder Jose Martinez on the 10-day IL.
The Cardinals will send Jack Flaherty (5-6, 3.72 ERA) to the mound to square off against Glenn Sparkman (3-7, 5.71 ERA). Flaherty may be the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break. In five starts, he has a 0.86 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP, has allowed only one home run and struck out 43 in only 31 1/3 innings of work. Sparkman is quite the opposite. He has allowed 22 runs over his last 19 2/3 innings.
St. Louis is the favorite at -200 and the over/under is 9.5.
Cardinals Look to Chase Down Cubs
The Cardinals enter with a record of 61-55 and are 27-32 on the road after a three-game sweep of the Pirates. If the playoffs started today, the Cardinals would visit the Nationals in the Wild Card game. With the Cubs on a road trip, where they have struggled this year, St. Louis has a great chance to make up ground in the NL Central race.
Flaherty has been hot since the All-Star break, but his last two starts have been the best of the bunch. He has combined for 14 shutout innings against the Dodgers and Cubs while only allowing five hits and striking out 19. He has faced the Royals once in his career, going seven innings and allowing two runs on three hits.
Cardinals hitters have only 14 at-bats against Sparkman, and they haven’t had much success. They have an OPS of .414 with only Molina and Dexter Fowler having hits. The Cardinals have hit the ball much better since the All-Star break, led by Paul Goldschmidt, who has an OPS of .946 and has 10 homers.
The Cardinals have Tyler O’Neill and Jose Martinez on the IL, and Alex Reyes is listed as day-to-day.
Kansas City Building For The Future
Kansas City has a record of 43-76 and is 23-35 at home. This is the time of the year where you find out which of your young players you can build around. One answer for Kansas City has been Soler, who has emerged as a superstar. He has a career-high 35 home runs and has been on an absolute tear since the break. He has an OPS of 1.210 and a slash line of .327/.455/.755 and 12 home runs over the stretch.
Dozier has also emerged as a solid piece for the future and has turned it on of late. He has an OPS of .985 since the break and has hit nine homers.
Sparkman will look to rebound from his roughest stretch of the year. In each of his last four appearances, he has gone at least five innings and allowed at least four runs. He has a 3.18 ERA against the Cardinals in two appearances out of the bullpen.
The Royals have no one listed on the injured list.
The matchup of two pitchers heading in very different directions was enough to decide this one for us. Flaherty is red-hot and even this Royals offense, which is playing well of late, won’t be enough to cool him off. Sparkman should continue his struggles, and this should be a laugher. I also like the five-inning line as well if you can get it around the same -200. I like the Cardinals at -200.