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Series Preview: Mariners (8-11) vs. Cardinals (8-11)

The Mariners wrap up this long homestand with a three-game series against the Cardinals.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointing three-game sweep at the hands of the NL-leading Brewers, the Mariners will welcome in another opponent from the NL Central, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals aren’t off to a great start, coming into the series at three games below .500, but like Chaos Ball, you never know when Cardinals Devil Magic will make an appearance. This is the fourth straight interleague series and third straight beer-adjacent opponent for the Mariners.

At a Glance

Cardinals Mariners
Cardinals Mariners
Game 1 Friday, April 21 | 7:10 pm
LHP Steven Matz RHP George Kirby
47% 53%
Game 2 Saturday, April 22 | 6:40 pm
RHP Miles Mikolas RHP Luis Castillo
42% 58%
Game 3 Sunday, April 23 | 1:10 pm
RHP Jack Flaherty RHP Chris Flexen
54% 46%
*Game odds courtesy of FanGraphs

Team Overview

Overview Cardinals Mariners Edge
Overview Cardinals Mariners Edge
Batting (wRC+) 114 (3rd in NL) 107 (4th in AL) Cardinals
Fielding (OAA) 20 (3rd) 1 (10th) Cardinals
Starting Pitching (FIP-) 102 (9th) 106 (8th) Cardinals
Bullpen (FIP-) 101 (8th) 95 (7th) Mariners
2022 stats

The Cardinals find themselves in unfamiliar territory, bobbing along in the cellar of the NL Central. Last year’s NL Central champs still have plenty of time to turn it around, but they’ll be chasing the red-hot Brewers as well as a surprisingly strong squad in Pittsburgh, and a Cubs team that’s also off to a strong start on the season. After years of the Cardinals putting together fearsome pitching staffs the Mariners have been happy to dip into in the trade market, suddenly their pitching looks downright assailable; they’re in the back third of MLB for fWAR from their pitching staff and, outside of Jack Flaherty, haven’t seen much consistency out of their starting rotation, usually a strength for the Cardinals. So far their offense has been able to keep the club in games and deliver some wins, as the offense has scored the 11th-most runs in baseball, but that’s a big thing to ask of a lineup that, outside of a few stalwarts, skews fairly young, including rookie Jordan Walker.

Cardinals Lineup

Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Player Position Bats PA K% BB% ISO wRC+
Brendan Donovan 2B L 468 15.0% 12.8% 0.097 129
Alec Burleson LF L 470 14.3% 6.2% 0.201 137
Paul Goldschmidt 1B R 651 21.7% 12.1% 0.260 177
Nolan Arenado 3B R 620 11.6% 8.4% 0.241 151
Willson Contreras C R 487 21.1% 9.2% 0.224 132
Nolan Gorman DH L 313 32.9% 8.9% 0.194 107
Lars Nootbaar CF L 347 20.5% 14.7% 0.221 125
Jordan Walker RF R 536 21.6% 10.8% 0.204 128
Tommy Edman SS S 630 17.6% 7.3% 0.135 108
2022 stats; Burleson and Walker’s stats from Triple-A

You might not recognize a ton of names outside of the marquee players here in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, but St. Louis’s roster has some fun young players. Nolan Gorman, a highly-touted Cardinals prospect for a long time who decimated the minors at every level, struggled in his first season, with a massive strikeout rate preventing him from getting to his plus power. He’s off to a much better start this year, having shaved ten points off his strikeout rate while hitting the ball hard. Meanwhile, Kate’s Rookie of the Year pick Jordan Walker is off to a slower start, but did open the season with a 12-game hit streak. He needs to start showing some more patience at the plate and stop putting the ball on the ground so often, but there’s plenty of promise with the 2020 first-rounder.

You might also recognize the name Lars Nootbar from his turn with the WBC champions Team Japan; he’s been up and down between Triple-A and MLB over the past couple of seasons, providing plus speed, defense, and two of the three true outcomes–instead, with his low strikeout rate, he brings a lot of on-base ability; his OBP this year is a hilarious .565. Nootbar’s emergence has pushed former Mariner prospect Tyler O’Neill into a corner role, as he got the reps in center while everyday centerfielder Dylan Carlson was on the injured list with a pinched nerve in his neck; between Nootbar, Carlson, Walker, and Alec Burlson, you can see why O’Neill’s name has been bandied about in trade talks lately, especially after a well-publicized public spat with his manager.

One other note: leadoff man Brendan Donovan is currently day-to-day with a shin abrasion. If he’s still scratched in Seattle, Mariners fans will have another opportunity to boo a former Mariner in Taylor Motter.

Probable Pitchers

Updated Stuff+ Explainer

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

LHP Steven Matz

48 26.1% 4.8% 16.0% 38.3% 5.25 3.78
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Sinker 48.5% 94.5 2260 94 205 79
Changeup 28.9% 85.1 2322 105 84 107
Curveball 20.0% 78.0 2371 111 78 122
Slider 2.6% 89.6 2160
2022 stats

Last offseason, Steven Matz spurned an offer from the Mets to sign a four-year deal with the Cardinals. Unfortunately, a nagging shoulder injury derailed his first season in St. Louis, limiting him to just 10 starts. When he did return from the IL in September, he was relegated to the bullpen, making five more appearances as a reliever. He was able to post the highest strikeout rate of his career in that limited action and it wasn’t just an artifact of his short stints out of the ‘pen. His strikeout rate in those 10 starts last year was 27.4%, fueled by a significant increase in whiff rate on his sinker.

RHP Miles Mikolas

202 1/3 19.0% 4.8% 11.9% 45.0% 3.29 3.87
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 27.3% 93.5 2292 77 102 93
Sinker 22.2% 93.0 2232 86 81 110
Changeup 4.0% 82.7 1575 66 30 97
Curveball 21.1% 76.0 2547 95 60 87
Slider 25.3% 87.7 2382 107 61 99
2022 stats

The Cardinals signed Miles Mikolas to a two-year extension this offseason, a nice reward after a solid season in 2022. Last year was actually the first full season Mikolas had pitched since 2019, after missing the entire 2020 season and most of the following season with a recurring forearm issue. It didn’t require surgery and St. Louis must have been happy with his arm health after last year to offer that new contract. His arsenal is spread evenly between four pitches with none of them really standing out on their own. But like Marco Gonzales, he makes the most of his lack of raw stuff with excellent command and pitchability, keeping batters off balance throughout an at-bat.

RHP Jack Flaherty

36 19.8% 13.2% 11.8% 41.7% 4.25 4.97
Pitch Frequency Velocity Spin Rate Stuff+ Whiff+ BIP+
Four-seam 48.2% 93.3 2280 99 94 100
Sinker 6.0% 91.0 2012 76
Cutter 3.3% 88.2 2274
Curveball 16.5% 77.2 2396 99 113 76
Slider 25.2% 83.8 2435 97 101 86
2022 stats

After a breakout season in 2019 where he posted a 0.91 ERA across 15 second half starts, Jack Flaherty looked poised to become a frontline ace for the Cardinals for years to come. Injuries and inconsistency conspired to crush that promise, relegating him to just 32 starts over the last three years with a 4.36 FIP. The pitch that fueled his breakout four years ago, his slider, just hasn’t been the same in the years since. It still generates plenty of whiffs, but batters are able to make tons of loud contact against it when they’re able to put it in play. He introduced a cutter into his repertoire last year in the hopes that it would help him keep left-handed batters at bay and even out a pretty significant platoon split. That’s deepened his arsenal, but his success is clearly tied to the effectiveness of his slider and he still hasn’t regained the feel for that pitch yet.

The Big Picture:

The AL West

Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Team W-L W% Games Behind Recent Form
Rangers 12-6 0.667 -- L-W-W-W-W
Astros 9-10 0.474 3.5 W-L-W-L-W
Angels 9-10 0.474 3.5 L-W-W-L-L
Mariners 8-11 0.421 4.5 W-W-L-L-L
Athletics 3-16 0.158 9.5 L-L-L-L-L

We don’t need to tell you things aren’t going great for the Mariners, who sank beneath the Angels again after being swept by the Brewers. The Rangers remain the bullies of the division, going 8-2 over their last 10, as they continue to bank wins on the Astros, still not operating at full power–although the Rangers themselves aren’t at full power, as Corey Seager remains on the shelf. Jacob deGrom’s wrist injury doesn’t appear to be serious, as he told the media he’s feeling fine and expects to make his next scheduled start. The Rangers get to play Oakland for their next series, and the Reds after that, so expect some more Ws in that column. The Angels struggled against the Yankees but will get a reprieve with a weekend series against the disappointing Royals before getting to take their turn against Oakland. The Astros have a tougher slate ahead, facing the Braves in Atlanta and then the red-hot Rays. Seems like it would be a good time to try to make up some games on Houston, Mariners!