San Diego Padres series preview: Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 7: Manny Machado #13 of the San Diego Padres reacts after striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on April 7, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 7: Manny Machado #13 of the San Diego Padres reacts after striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on April 7, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The San Diego Padres host the St. Louis Cardinals for a three-game series in what will be an important test for the Friars. How do these teams match up?

The San Diego Padres sit squarely at .500 with a 40-40 record, two games back from wild card contention, and they’re about to start their home stand with an opponent in a similar position.

The St. Louis Cardinals come to Petco Park slightly higher in the standings, 1.5 games back from a wild card spot with a 40-39 record.

With the 2019 MLB season passing its halfway mark, the Padres vs. Cardinals series will be a critical test to measure the Padres’ abilities against a good team and playoff contender.

June has been tough for San Diego, as the team has alternated between sweeping and being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Baltimore Orioles after a record-setting series against the Colorado Rockies.

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers at least 12 games ahead of the National League West, plus an extremely crowded NL Wild Card race, intra-league series such as the Padres vs. Cardinals are more important than ever.

Cardinals fans have been pretty disappointed with their team so far in 2019. After being swept by the Chicago Cubs, the Redbirds won series against the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, then split the rematch with the Marlins.

They proceeded to take the series against the Los Angeles Angels before being swept by the Oakland Athletics in a two-game inter-league matchup.

While only 2.5 games back in the NL Central and 1.5 back from the wild card, the Cubs and Brewers have also underperformed this season, making the division closer than it otherwise should be.

Offensively, the Cardinals rank in the bottom third of most categories including total hits, batting average, On-Base-Percentage (OBP), and OBP plus slugging. Specifically, they rank 24th,  23rd, 19th, and 23rd in each respective category.

No Cardinal is batting over .285 halfway through the season.

One constant for the team is their nine-time Gold Glove, nine-time All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who’s arguably the best active catcher in the league. He’s in his 15th major league season, hitting .260/.288/.662 with four home runs in 2019.

While this isn’t his best year statistically, Molina is always a threat both in the box and behind the dish, and is the lifeblood of this Cardinals team.

St. Louis’ best hitter has been Paul DeJong, an All-Star candidate who’s slashing .263/.350/.818. DeJong has 13 home runs with an above average wOBA (weighted on-base average) of .347, which means that he provides the bulk of offensive value in terms of how he reaches base, both as a hitter and a walker. The third-year Cardinal has also been a great shortstop, ranking 10th in the league in defensive WAR.

As a team, the Cardinals’ pitching has improved throughout the year, but it still isn’t great. They rank eighth in BA allowed and 10th in ERA, but 24th in hits and 22nd in earned runs. This has created a run differential of only +9.

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A huge loss for St. Louis was that of closer Jordan Hicks, who’s been shut down for the year after suffering an ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury.

Hicks had converted 14 out of 15 save opportunities with a 3.14 ERA and 0.94 WHIP through 29 games. The hardest-throwing pitcher in the MLB, he owns the 21 fastest balls pitched in 2019, the top one clocking in at 104.3 MPH. It’s possible the Padres could exploit his absence.

On the mound, Michael Wacha (5-3) will open the series for the Cardinals. This season hasn’t been his best, as he’s sporting a 5.81 FIP (fielding-independent pitching) and 1.667 WHIP.

Like the rest of the Cardinals lineup, he’s had a rough stretch. His last outing was great, when he allowed one run off of five hits through six innings, striking out four and walking one batter. The start before, however, saw him give up six runs off of seven hits through only four innings.

Game 2 will feature Dakota Hudson (6-3), who owns a 3.36 ERA but a 4.67 FIP and 1.471 WHIP. He’s proven to be one of the Cardinals’ more reliable starters, going 4-0 in his last seven games with a 2.22 ERA. His last start against the Los Angeles Angels was excellent; Hudson threw seven innings, only surrendering one run off of five hits with six strikeouts and a walk.

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The Game 3 starter is yet to be announced.

For the Padres, Eric Lauer (5-7) will start the series against Wacha. Lauer has a 4.32 ERA but a 4.01 FIP, which is a positive sign for the young pitcher.

After a wretched game against the Rockies, when he was pulled for allowing five runs off of 10 hits in only 2.2 innings, Lauer had a strong bounce-back game against the Pirates. He gave up two runs off of five hits through seven innings, striking out four batters and walking one.

Game 2 will feature Chris Paddack (4-4) on the mound to face Hudson. Starting the season strong with a 1.93 ERA by the end of May, Paddack was optioned to Class A ball after getting rocked by the Philadelphia Phillies.

He was then recalled to start against the Pirates, where he improved slightly by allowing two runs off of five hits through five innings. He walked three batters and only struck out one.

Finally, Joey Lucchesi (6-4) will start the rubber match, sporting a 3.95 ERA (3.63 FIP) and 1.115 WHIP. Lucchesi has gone deep into several games but has also struggled with walks and runs allowed.

His last outing was his worst in a while, surrendering four runs off of six hits through five innings. Hopefully the five days of rest will be enough for him to handle the Cardinals’ offense.

Next. Padres sweep Orioles with dominant offensive showing. dark

The San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals series will begin Friday, June 28 at 7:10pm PT/10:10 pm ET. For complete coverage of the San Diego Padres’ 2019 season, continue following Friars on Base all season long.