If the St. Louis Cardinals want the National League Central title, they’re going to have to earn it, starting Monday when they host the Washington Nationals for the opener of a three-game series. The remainder of the Cardinals’ regular-season schedule contains this series with the Nationals and two with the Chicago Cubs — with the Nationals and Cubs both fighting for Wild Card spots — along with a road series against Arizona.
Chicago is actually right behind the Cardinals in the NL Central race, trailing St. Louis by two games heading into Monday’s action. Washington is currently in the top Wild Card spot, leading the Cubs by 1.5 games for home-field for the Wild Card game. Milwaukee is also in the mix after taking two of three from St. Louis over the weekend, trailing St. Louis by three games in the NL Central and the Cubs by a game in the Wild Card chase.
The moneyline for this contest has the Washington Nationals -140 and the St. Louis Cardinals +130. The over/under for the game has been set at 8.
Looking Like An Ace
Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the opener for Washington, having won three of his last four decisions. On the season, the right-hander is 17-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 30 starts, notching 229 strikeouts to rank second in the National League in that category. Strasburg’s 17 wins lead the National League. Strasburg is coming off a win over Minnesota last week in which he went six innings, allowing just four hits and two earned runs. He picked up a win over St. Louis in early May, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing six hits and one earned run.
Before Sunday’s 7-0 win over Atlanta, the Nationals’ bats had gone quiet against the Braves, as Washington scored just one run over the first two games of the series. Anthony Rendon continues to be the top offensive threat for the Nationals, leading the team — and the National League — with a .332 batting average and 118 RBI. Juan Soto has been a big contributor for Washington as well, leading the team with 34 home runs. The 20-year-old is batting .313 in September, hitting four home runs and driving in 13 runs while drawing nine walks.
Needing To Bounce Back
The Cardinals have dropped four of their last six games and could use a big outing from Dakota Hudson in this one. Hudson had won five straight starts before taking the loss last week when he went six innings and held Colorado to two runs in a 2-1 setback. On the season, the right-hander is 15-7 with a 3.38 ERA, notching 123 strikeouts in 159 2/3 innings. The big problem for Hudson has been walks, as he ranks third in the National League with 75 free passes, including five in his last game.
The Cardinals’ offense has been up and down, scoring 10 runs in consecutive wins before their current two-game losing streak. Still, it looked like they’d done enough Sunday until a ninth-inning grand slam by Ryan Braun gave Milwaukee the lead for good. Closer Carlos Martinez wasn’t available because of respiratory issues, so Junior Fernandez was in to try to close out the win. St. Louis hit four home runs in the game, including two by Harrison Bader and one by Tommy Edman, who have combined for 19 total on the season.
Cardinals Break Through
St. Louis knows that it has some big games against the Cubs looming and they need to get as many wins as they can to make those less significant. Strasburg isn’t an easy pitcher to get runs off of, but St. Louis has a deep lineup that can push a couple of runs across the plate to give Hudson the support he needs. I’m taking St. Louis +130 to get the win.