By Nora Farrell
(The Cardinal Nation Show) -- The St. Louis Cardinals are coming off a 5-4 walk off win against Miami last Sunday, and possibly more importantly, a few days rest. The Cardinals will kick off the second-half of the season against a very familiar divisional foe.
The Cardinals and Reds have never been friends. With both competing in the National League Central, they play each other multiple times each season. Look no further than the August 10, 2010 bench-clearing brawl at Great American Ballpark. Since then the rivalry has only intensified.
Former Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa added more fuel to the fire just last week by leaving Brandon Phillips and Johnny Cueto off the All-Star roster. Dusty Baker, the manager of the Reds, attributed the snub to La Russa's continued distaste towards the players since the brawl. Phillips and Cueto were at the forefront of the brawl.
Phillips initiated the fight with Molina when the two exchanged words in response to the less than favorable words Phillips had said about the Cardinals in a previous interview. In video of the brawl, Cueto can be seen kicking players repeatedly. He argued it was in self-defense.
St. Louis (46-40) looks to continue its winning ways against Cincinnati (47-38) this season having won four of six. This series is an opportunity for the Cardinals to make up ground in the National League Central. They currently sit 1.5 games back of the 2nd place Reds who trail the first place Pirates by one game. Both the Cardinals and the Reds have won six of their past ten.
Another Cardinals pitcher who was supposed to return post-All-Star break has been shut down for the season. After undergoing shoulder surgery on Monday, Kyle McClellan joins Chris Carpenter as another pitcher done for the season. With McClellan gone, there is an added need for the early and middle relievers to step up, something they have struggled with lately.
One early reliever that has been fantastic since his call-up is Barret Browning. Through 4 games and 4.1 innings, Browning is still perfect. He has yet to allow a hit or walk, recording three strikeouts and maintaining a 0.00 ERA. He has retired 13 consecutive batters.
The Reds have relied on strong pitching so far this season with a club ERA of 3.39. Cincinnati's problems thus far are due to offensive inconsistency. The Reds are batting a paltry .236 with runners in scoring position and .194 when there is two outs. However, Joey Votto has been a powerhouse offensively. Batting .348, he is a strong MVP candidate.
Friday night's matchup between Wainwright (7-8, 4.56 ERA) and Latos (7-2, 4.13 ERA) will be a faceoff between two pitchers that have been good as of late. In five of his last six outings Wainwright has allowed three or fewer runs. Latos has only allowed 10 hits and two earned runs in his last three outings.
On Saturday, Lynn (11-4, 3.41 ERA) will look to pick up where he left off during his last start earning his 11th win after a few rough outings. Cincinnati will have Leake (3-6, 4.01 ERA) on the mound. Jake Westbrook (7-7, 3.75) will take the mound against Johnny Cueto (10-5, 2.39 ERA) in the series finale.
Game times for this weekend:
Friday July 13 7:10ET
Saturday July 14 4:05 ET
Sunday July 15 8 ET*
*ESPN Sunday Night Baseball Game of the Week