For the first time this season, Missouri in-state rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, locked up for a home-and-home four-game series. There are three down and one to go, with the two teams meeting for their final showdown at Busch Stadium in St. Louis today (7.15pm ET, Thursday).
Before I get to the betting pick and prediction that this Game 4 preview concludes with, let us take a look at the form of the two teams in this series. Opening up at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City, it was the hometown Royals that took the first game. The Cardinals opened up the scoring early as Matt Holliday hit a 2-run home run to give St. Louis the lead. But that was all she wrote for the Cardinals as Danny Duffy wouldn’t allow anything else in his eight-inning, six hit outing. On the other side of the mound, Adam Wainwright did not fare so well, giving up all six runs to the Royals over the course of the first two innings. Wainwright would only pitch into the fifth, allowing 10 hits, two for extra bases.
The series remained at Kauffmann as Yordano Ventura took the ball for the Royals opposite St. Louis’ Michael Wacha. Both pitched clean first innings only to allow five total runs on the board in the second. A three-spot from the Cardinals was punctuated with some early extra base hits and St. Louis taking advantage of good base running. The Royals scored just two, but the game was still well within hand until the fifth inning. Led by a Matt Carpenter home run, the Cardinals score five more runs over the next two innings. The Royals would add two more of their own in the sixth thanks to a pair of doubles, but ultimately it wasn’t enough to keep up with St. Louis’ offense as the road team won 8-4.
Game three not only saw the two rivals tied at one game apiece but it also saw their season records mirrored at 40-36. Both remained firmly in second place in their division as well so the impact of this game, the first of the series at Busch Stadium, was bigger than just two in-state rivals playing for dominance.
A scoreless game until the eighth inning, Alcides Escobar hit a sac fly and brought in Christian Colon to take the lead. Leaving the game in the hands of closer Wade Davis, who had been a perfect 18-for-18 in save opportunities. Surrendering two hits, including Jhonny Peralta who got the go-ahead RBI, bringing home Greg Garcia, who reached base after he was hit by a pitch, the Cardinals tied the game in the bottom of the ninth. Taking back the lead in the 10th, Whit Merrifield scored the go-ahead run. However, not to be outdone, the Cardinals struck right back, recording a home run off the bat of Stephen Piscotty. But it was the Royals who ultimately prevailed 3-2.
This series has been incredibly close and incredibly competitive, which is not surprising given how both teams have become two of the best in the league. In fact, last year when the two faced off, both were in first place in their respective divisions and competing for the best record in baseball. This year, their divisions are bolstered so right now Kansas City and St. Louis are settling for second best, but these are still two of the best teams in baseball.
Offensively, the Cardinals are among the top five in the entire league in runs scored and OPS, top six in home runs and top four in RBI. It is no surprise that this offense is so potent, especially in the run scoring department as they continue to sit near the top of the league in just about every production category. Unfortunately, they often sit behind the Chicago Cubs in these categories, hence the reason why the Cardinals are still fighting for second.
Meanwhile, the Royals have not been as offensively potent, scoring in the bottom 20 of the league in runs, RBI and home runs. However, where the Royals thrive is at making contact as only the Boston Red Sox better their overall team average of .277.
With the exception of game two however, we have really not seen much offense from either team in this series and that is due to the men that have been on the mound. Ranked 12th and 14th in team ERA, the Cardinals and Royals respectively, have had some of their top arms on the mound throughout this series. Both teams have also brought it with their bullpens, as they have all season.
Kansas City Royals vs St. Louis Cardinals Game 4 Picks
Expected to take the mound in Game 4 is Chris Young for the Royals and Mike Leake (pictured) for the Cardinals. Young is just 2-7 with a 6.54 ERA in his starts this season and has been mired in an even worse slump as of late. Only St. Louis’ Brandon Moss has significant at bats against him though and he’s hitting .263. Leake has fared better, going 5-5 with a 4.25 ERA this season. In his last three starts, he’s been consistent to this average, recording an ERA of about 4.41. No one on the KC roster has more than two at bats against him so there is no real baseline to judge.
The series has been close and both teams could be said to have some momentum. There is a lot at stake and while last year this was a possible World Series preview, this year, it’s all about the Show Me state. And it’s clear both of these teams are looking to show off quite a lot.
The Cardinals have a little more pop in their bats and Busch Stadium has been very friendly for home run hitters this year.