The St. Louis Cardinals and the host Kansas City Royals enter the penultimate series of the season with differing goals. The two teams play the first of three games Monday at Kauffman Stadium with the Cards looking to extend their season and the Royals looking for clarity for next year.
The Cardinals (26-24) are involved in a muddy playoff situation in the National League. They enter Monday’s action a half-game ahead of the Phillies for the seventh playoff spot. A half-game behind the Phillies is a three-way gaggle of the Reds, Brewers and Giants.
One of the three teams from the NL Central will claim the second automatic spot from the division. The other four teams will be battling for two spots.
The problem for the Cardinals is they still may have to play 10 games. There are eight games remaining on the schedule, including a five-game series with the Brewers in St. Louis to conclude the regular season. But if the two other games need to be played, they’ll be played in Detroit Sept. 28 against the Tigers.
The Cardinals, who will send Adam Wainwright to the mound Monday, beat the Pirates 2-1 Sunday to extend their winning streak to four games.
The Royals (21-32) are all-but eliminated from the 2020 postseason, but they still can impact the National League race with this series against their cross-state rivals.
Wainwright (5-1, 2.87 ERA) has pitched well against the Royals in his 15-year MLB career. He’s 5-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 13 games (10 starts). That’s the most appearances and starts against any American League team, with the exception of the Astros, who were in the National League for the first seven years of Wainwright’s career.
He took a no-decision against the Royals Aug. 25 in St. Louis. He allowed four earned runs in seven innings, striking out four and walking two.
“It’s almost hard to describe what Waino does for us. He does so much,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said after Wainwright threw a seven-inning complete game in a double-header victory over the Brewers last Wednesday. “He goes down 2-0 in the first after a rough night and just bears down. Just went out and dominated, was in complete control. Displays yet again the art of pitching, and displays yet again what it means to be an ace with all caps.”
The Royals are looking to find answers for 2021 and beyond, including rookie pitcher Carlos Hernandez (0-0, 3.86 ERA). While much of the attention has been on rookie starters Brady Singer and Kris Bubic, two of four Royals pitchers to be taken in the first round of the 2018 draft, Hernandez has worked his way into the conversation.
He made his first career start Sept. 12 against the Pirates. He gave up three runs on three hits — all solo home runs — in three innings.
“I thought he had some really good stuff,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said after pulling him and sending him to work on things in the bullpen. “The velocity was there. Even his misses were close misses. There are some things he needs to work on.
“There were a couple things he was doing we thought he could work on better in the bullpen, and that’s what he did afterward. It’s something really simple that he can make the adjustment.”
Hernandez’s longest outing this year was 3 2/3 innings in relief, so the Royals bullpen will need to be ready early.
–Field Level Media