The NL Wild Card race will start to heat up on Monday night when the Cincinnati Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals. The Reds are listed as heavy favorites for the game at home with a moneyline of -185, while the Cardinals have a moneyline of +155. The game also has an over/under of 9.5 runs.
The Reds are coming off a particularly bad weekend that saw them lose two of three games against the Marlins. They went 2-4 on a short road trip and have now lost three of their last four series. The only silver lining for the Reds is that they’re still leading the race for the second Wild Card spot, although only by 1.5 games over the Padres.
Of course, the Cardinals are also in the Wild Card race, sitting 3.5 games behind the Reds coming to Monday’s game. They split a four-game series with the Pirates this past weekend, leaving them just 5-7 over their last 12 games despite being red-hot during the first part of August. They have just ten games left against losing teams this season, so these head-to-head games against the Reds are critical for their playoff chances.
Old Man Assistance
Jon Lester is in line to start for the Cardinals on Monday. The 37-year-old was supposed to aid the St. Louis rotation down the stretch, although things have not played out like that. He’s 1-1 with a 6.04 ERA over his first starts with the Cardinals, raising his ERA for the season to 5.02.
Facing a potent Cincinnati lineup may not be the recipe for Lester to get back on track. Of course, the Reds have been held to just a single run in three of their last five games, looking sluggish without Jesse Winker available. Joey Votto’s production has disappeared over the last week, while other key players, including spark plug Jonathan India, have also slumped lately.
A Tale of Two Halves
The Reds will send Luis Castillo to the mound on Monday as he tries to continue his surge during the second half of the season. After a disastrous April and May, Castillo has since started to look more like a frontline starter. He’s allowed just three runs over 13.1 innings in his last two starts, so he’s certainly trending in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the Cards have been a mixed bag offensively lately. They’ve been held to three runs or less in five of their last nine games, although they also had a breakout game with 13 runs on Saturday. Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, and Edmond Sosa have gotten hot, but Nolan Arenado, Yadier Molina, and Dylan Carlson have chosen a bad time to go cold.
Win with Pitching
The Reds have won with their offense all season, but this is a game in which they should be able to win with pitching. With such a hot and cold St. Louis lineup, Castillo is poised to have a good game. Since Lester can’t be trusted to match that against a Cincinnati lineup that has plenty of big bats, bet on the Reds to win Monday’s series opener.
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