Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cleveland Indians


The Best Team in Baseball Comes to Cleveland

Lose two out of three to the Twins? Great. Welcome the best team in baseball to town? Fantastic. What’s next, I’m going to find out I need a root canal and have to re-file my income taxes at the same time? Awesome sauce. Let’s do this.

If you can’t tell by my overly sarcastic and super enthusiastic tone, I’m super high on the Indians right now and enjoying every part of the 2015 season. I mean, how can you not enjoy watching a team that was picked by many to compete for a World Series title languish in last place with a record of 11-19 midway through June. And say what you want about how it’s still early and there is a lot of baseball left to be played. While this is true, we’re also getting dangerously close to that magical 40 game mark where things become less fluky and more actuality.

Simply put, after 40 games you are what your record says you are.

May 6, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward (22) runs and scores on a hit by catcher Yadier Molina (not pictured) against the Chicago Cubs during the second inning at Busch Stadium. The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Well, at the 30-game mark the Indians are the worst team in the American League and sit in a three-way tie with the Rockies and Phillies for the prestigious title of worst team in baseball. Hooray… so excuse me if my bitterness and pessimistic point of view become grating. Like many of you, I expected more from this team and think it’s time to stop making excuses for them.

If the Indians want to make any kind of statement, then playing well over the next three days would be a good way to do it. The St. Louis Cardinals are coming to town and they currently rank as the best team in all of baseball after getting off to a sizzling 22-9 start. Yes, you read that correctly. 22 wins. 9 losses. All of that despite losing their ace for the season.

The moral of the story as always… God apparently loves the Cardinals about as much as he hates Cleveland.

Despite losing Adam Wainwright for the season thanks to a torn Achilles tendon, the Red Birds still sport one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. Behind a staff fronted by Michael Wacha, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Tyler Lyons, and Carlos Marinez, St. Louis owns the lowest ERA in baseball at 2.75, the seventh most quality starts with 19, and the tenth lowest batting average against at .239.

They’ve been improbably good to start the season and show no real signs of slowing down. A .288 BABIP seems a little bit unsustainable long-term, but when compared to the Indians gaudy .344 BABIP, it begins to make sense why one team has struggled and the other has not. When compared to a staff of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Danny Salazar, it’s clear who has more talent, but luck can be one hell of an equalizer.

Offensively, the Cardinals aren’t going to scare anyone. At least not in the same way a team like the Tigers, Blue Jays, or Nationals could. You don’t look at their lineup and get an overpowering sense of doom. They have quality pieces in Matt Carpenter, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Kolten Wong, and Yadier Molina, when healthy.

That’s not exactly the 1927 Yankees, but the Cardinals just keep on hitting and scoring enough runs to give their pitching staff room to breath and the opportunity to operate without worrying about making mistakes. They also play solid defense and make all of the necessary plays to win a game. It’s this consistency, thanks to a solid core that has been developed over time that makes the Cardinal so good year in and year out. So far, 2015 is proving to be no exception.

In a lot of ways, the Cardinals and the Indians share similar qualities in terms of the structure of their teams. Hard working, blue-collar, not a lot of traditional super-star talents. The closest thing either team has to a super-star is Miachel Brantley for the Tribe and Kolten Wong (who is quickly becoming a star) for the Cardinals. They’re just a bunch of guys who have to work hard and play together in order to win.

Probable Pitching Matchups:

Carlos Carrasco vs. Lance Lynn

Corey Kluber vs. John Lackey

Trevor Bauer vs. Michael Wacha