Monday night features a National League Central showdown as the Pittsburgh Pirates (44-48) travel to Busch Stadium to take on the St. Louis Cardinals (46-45). In a crowded division race, where only 6.5 games separate first from last, every win is crucial. For the Pirates, they have floundered an opportunity to close ground after being swept by the Cubs over the weekend. For the Cardinals, they took two of three from the Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend to remain three games back.
The pitching matchup for this one features Joe Musgrove (6-7, 4.15 ERA) for the Pirates against the Cardinals’ Miles Mikolas (5-9, 4.53 ERA). First pitch for this contest is scheduled for 8:15 pm ET.
The moneyline for this contest is set at the Pittsburgh Pirates +131 and the St. Louis Cardinals -141. The over/under for runs scored is set at 8.5.
By The Numbers
Neither of these teams is particularly dominant on the offensive side, but the Pirates have the edge. They rank 16th overall in runs per game, averaging 4.82 per game (4.48 on the road). For the Cardinals, they rank 22nd at 4.43 runs per game (4.45 at home).
On the pitching side, it is the Cardinals who hold the advantage. They currently rank 10th in the majors in earned run average with a 4.12 ERA (3.45 at home). For the Pirates, they rank 24th with a staff ERA of 4.97 (4.69 on the road).
When you put it all together, it is the Cardinals that come out ahead in terms of run differential. They rank 16th in run differential at +2 while the Pirates rank 21st at -43.
Pirates Look To Get Back On Track
After being swept by the Cubs, the Pirates have fallen back to 5.5 games in the division. With the trade deadline looming, the next couple of weeks will be imperative. To try to bounce back, the Pirates will turn to Joe Musgrove on the mound.
On the season, Musgrove is 6-7 with a 4.15 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and opponents are hitting .251 against him. In 99 2/3 innings, he has allowed 97 hits, 46 earned runs, 10 home runs and has struck out 83 versus 23 walks. Making his first start since the All-Star break, Musgrove will try to pitch the Pirates to a win Monday.
Offensively, when talking about the Pirates, you have to start with Josh Bell. He has been a ton this season, hitting .298/.373/.636 with 27 home runs, 84 runs batted in and 69 runs scored. In 17 at-bats against Mikolas, Bell is hitting .294 with two runs batted in. The only player on the Pirates who has homered against Mikolas in their career is Jung Ho Kang, who is 1 for 3 with a home run.
After Bell, the next biggest threat is Starling Marte. On the season, Marte is hitting .279/.319/.484 with 15 home runs, 51 runs batted in and 57 runs scored. The Pirates’ offense will try to get it going against Mikolas and the Cardinals.
Cardinals Lurking In NL Central
The Cardinals have been an interesting case study this season as they have been far from consistent yet still find themselves in the thick of a postseason opportunity as they are three games back in the division and one game back in the Wild Card. Trying to get the series started off well will be Miles Mikolas.
On the season, he is 5-9 in 18 starts with a 4.53 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and opponents are hitting .277 against him. In 99 1/3 innings, he has allowed 108 hits, 50 earned runs, 16 home runs and has struck out 75 versus 17 walks. In his last outing, an 8-4 loss to the Giants, Mikolas went four innings, allowing four earned runs on six hits while striking out six. He will look to improve on that Monday.
Offensively, the Cardinals are hoping Sunday is a sign of things to come when it comes to Paul Goldschmidt. The slugging first baseman, who was acquired over the offseason, has struggled this season to the tune of .251/.339/.427 with 17 home runs, 39 runs batted in and 52 runs scored. On Sunday, though, he went 2 for 4 with a home run in helping the Cardinals down the Diamondbacks 5-2. In his career versus Joe Musgrove, he is 2 for 6 with a run batted in.
Pirates Not A Bad Bet
While the Cardinals had the better weekend, I can’t necessarily say that I prefer either team in this matchup. While Musgrove has been just ordinary, Mikolas has also shown inconsistency throughout the season (his last outing highlights that pretty well). With the matchup really feeling like a tossup, the smarter play is on the underdog. For my money, I am taking the Pirates at +131. I wouldn’t blame you if you went Cardinals, but I feel like it is better to put your money on the team that gives you the better return and that is Pittsburgh.