Cardinals vs Padres Game 1 – 2020 MLB Expert Analysis
Welcome back to the playoffs, San Diego Padres! They take on the playoff-regular St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of their best-of-3 Wild Card series on Wednesday. The Cards have made an interesting choice as their opening pitcher.
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Why Bet on St. Louis? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis
The Cardinals have won the most pennants of any National League franchise, but the Dodgers are only one behind them. The Dodgers are solid favorites to win their 23rd pennant in 2020.
St. Louis clinched the #5 seed in the National League postseason by virtue of having the second-best record among the three NL teams that finished second in their division (San Diego and Miami). The Cards finished with a winning record for a 13th consecutive season and 20th time in the last 21 seasons.
The Padres led the majors with a .310 average and .569 slugging with runners in scoring position this year. The Cardinals gave up a .222 average with RISP, second lowest in the majors to the Dodgers. However, offensively the Redbirds ranked 27th in slugging and dead last in both homers and isolated power. It’s hard to score in the postseason and teams need a few home runs to survive.
Cards second baseman Kolten Wong is red-hot as he enters the playoffs. Wong has at least one hit in seven straight games and hit safely in 23-of-29 September games. His 30 September hits overall ranked T-6th in the National League.
For some reason, the Cards are not starting young ace Jack Flaherty here but instead Kwang-Hyun Kim (3-0). The 32-year-old limited the Brewers to one run over five innings in a win last Thursday. Kim scattered five hits and two walks over his five innings, with the only mark against him a two-out Tyrone Taylor RBI single in the fourth inning. The southpaw walked two and struck out three. Kim finished his first season in MLB with a 1.62 ERA and 1.02 WHIP across 39 innings of work as a starter and reliever.
Kim has never faced the Padres. The lefty has a low-90s fastball against which opponents have hit just .182 this year, thanks to the stellar defense behind Cardinals pitchers. Kim mixes in a deceptive slider, a slow and looping curveball and a changeup that he doesn’t use as often. Kim has pretty even splits this year against right-handed (.198/.250/.328) and left-handed (.192/.300/.308) batters.
Why Bet on San Diego? | 2020 MLB Expert Analysis
The Padres are one of just six franchises to never win the World Series. The Rockies, Rays, Brewers, Rangers, and Mariners have also never hoisted the trophy. You can argue, though, that this is the best Padres team ever. The 2020 Padres put up the highest win percentage (.617) in franchise history, and if you look at their run differential their “deserved” win percentage (i.e., their Pythagorean record) was easily the highest in franchise history.
Fernando Tatis Jr. was the runaway MVP leader after the first month-plus of the season but hit .208/.311/.403 in September. Jake Cronenworth was the runaway Rookie of the Year leader after the first 30-plus games but hit .183/.275/.268 in September.
Padres catcher Jason Castro has been diagnosed with a sprained jaw. Castro was removed from Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Giants after taking a foul tip off his mask. Padres manager Jayce Tingler told reporters that Castro passed an early round of concussion tests but that his jaw is “tender.” It sounds like the 33-year-old could be good to go for Game 1.
It’s not 100 percent clear which Padres pitcher will start Game 1, but the team hopes its Dinelson Lamet (3-1). He was removed from last Friday’s start due to tightness in his biceps. Lamet called for the trainers after throwing a slider to Evan Longoria in the top of the fourth inning and was immediately removed from the game.
Prior to departing, Lamet had allowed two runs (one earned) on one hit and one walk while striking out four in 3 2/3 innings. If Lamet is OK after a bullpen session on Monday, he should get the call. That announcement is not expected until Tuesday. Lamet, 28, had a marvelous regular season, finishing with a 2.09 ERA and 93 strikeouts in 69 innings.
As things stand, Zach Davies is the only pitcher guaranteed to fill one of the three spots in the Padres’ rotation for the best-of-three Wild Card Series. His final outing of the season lasted only three innings and 51 pitches on Saturday — in order to line him up for any of the three games this week. Davies has been arguably the Padres’ steadiest pitcher this season, posting a 2.73 ERA across 12 starts.
Expert PredictionPadres 4, Cardinals 2
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