The St. Louis Cardinals play their final interleague series this weekend as the Seattle Mariners come to town. It’s been a couple years since the two teams have played — since June 2010, actually.
And with the Cardinals currently in a first-place tie with the Pittsburgh Pirates (thanks a lot, Cubs!), it goes without saying (though everyone is saying it anyway) that every game is big with only 16 remaining. So this weekend is now the biggest series ever … until Monday and the four games in Colorado.
Anyway, looking back to 2010, the Cardinals took two of three from the Mariners, June 14-16 at Busch Stadium, and have won six of the nine games the two teams have played. Two of the three Mariner wins came during their first-ever series back in June 2002, including a Joel Piniero victory over Darryl Kile on June 12 — the second-to-last time Kile would ever pitch.
So what about today’s Mariners? They are currently 65-81, in fourth place in the American League West and have lost four straight, with the previous three a sweep by the Houston Astros. This month they are 3-8 and they’re 7-10 this season in interleague play. (The Cardinals, by the way, are 8-9.) They are 32-39 on the road.
The Mariner who many were looking forward to seeing, former Cardinal shortstop Brendan Ryan, was traded to the New York Yankees earlier in the week. And perhaps the best Mariner, former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez, won’t pitch this weekend.
So who will? Here’s a look at the three starting pitchers for the series.
Friday, Sept. 13 — 7:15 p.m. Central Time
Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.97 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (16-9, 3.03 ERA)
The 32-year-old right-hander has emerged as one of the American League’s top starters in his second season in the Majors. The Mariners are being cautious with his innings, however, as he’s just five shy of his career-high 201 2/3 in Japan.
If Felix Hernandez isn’t the best Mariner, this guy is. However, in his last three starts, Iwakuma has given up 6 earned runs on 19 hits in 18 2/3 innings with 19 strikeouts and had no decision in any of the games.
Saturday, Sept. 14 — 6:15 p.m. Central Time
James Paxton (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Michael Wacha (3-0, 2.72 ERA)
Paxton was strong in his MLB debut last Saturday, allowing four hits and two runs (one earned) in six innings against the Rays. The lanky lefty was hitting 96-97 mph with his fastball and mixing in a big curve that improved as the game progressed.
So an intriguing rookie starter match-up, with Wacha going for the Cardinals.
Sunday, Sept. 15 — 1:15 p.m. Central Time
Erasmo Ramirez (5-1, 4.57 ERA) vs. Shelby Miller (13-9, 3.05 ERA)
Ramirez threw six-plus scoreless innings on four hits in his last outing but took a no-decision against the Rays. The 23-year-old missed the first three months with an elbow issue but has a 2.27 ERA in his past five starts.
During his previous three starts, Ramirez has allowed five earned runs, though nine total, on 16 hits in 18 innings. He’s struck out 15.
Cardinals team hitting: .267 (third in MLB, first in NL)/.329/.400
Cardinals team ERA: 3.52
Mariners team hitting: .240 (28th in MLB, last in AL)/.307/.392
Mariners team ERA: 4.35
Cardinals team leaders
Batting average: Yadier Molina, .318
On-base percentage: Matt Carpenter, .386
Slugging percentage: Carlos Beltran, .508
OPS: Matt Carpenter, .867
Home runs: Carlos Beltran, 23
RBI: Allen Craig, 97
WAR – batting: Matt Carpenter, 5.8
Stolen bases: Jon Jay, 7
Wins: Adam Wainwright, 16
ERA – Reliever: Kevin Siegrist, 0.55. Starter: Adam Wainwright, 3.03
Strikeouts: Adam Wainwright, 195
Saves: Edward Mujica, 36
WAR – pitching: Adam Wainwright, 5.4
Mariners team leaders
Batting average: Kendrys Morales, .280
On-base percentage: Kendrys Morales, .340
Slugging percentage: Raul Ibanez, .501
OPS: Raul Ibanez, .812
Home runs: Kyle Seager, 22
RBI: Kendrys Morales, 76
WAR – batting: Kyle Seager, 3.7
Stolen bases: Michael Saunders, 12
Wins: Hisashi Iwakuma, 12
ERA – Reliever: Stephen Pryor, 0.00. Starter: Hisashi Iwakuma, 2.97.
Strikeouts: Felix Hernandez, 200
Saves: Tom Wilhelmsen, 24
WAR – pitching: Hisashi Iwakuma, 5.6
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not (last seven games)
Hot: Matt Carpenter, .364
Jon Jay, .353
Matt Holliday, .350
Matt Adams, .333
Pete Kozma, .333 (YES, REALLY)
Not: David Freese, .176
Shane Robinson, .143
Brock Peterson, .000
Kolten Wong, .000
Hot: Abraham Almonte, .333
Brad Miller, .333
Michael Saunders, .308
Kenrys Morales, .300
Not: Justin Smoak, .130
Raul Ibanez, .118
Mike Zunino, .111
Kyle Seager, .050
Logan Schafer, .053
So, as mentioned, three big games against a not-very-good team — hmmm, didn’t the Cards just do that and take two of three? Here’s hoping for more success. Also as mentioned, the Pirates are facing the Cubs this weekend. (Go Cubs go!) And now we have to turn around and cheer for the Brewers, since they are headed home to Milwaukee to face the Reds for three games.
September baseball makes for strange rooting interests, for sure, but it’s certainly better to be in the race than not.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.