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Sunday NL Central Battle: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds

The St. Louis Cardinals look to keep pace in the NL Central as they finish their series against the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals took Friday’s series opener but were shut out by the Reds on Saturday. St. Louis is a -150 favorite to win Sunday’s rubber match.

The Cardinals were one of the best teams in baseball during the month of August. They made great headway in the NL Central but still trail the Cubs by 4.5 games atop the division. On the bright side, St. Louis currently holds the top wild-card spot. However, there are a handful of teams fighting for those two spots, so it’ll be a battle to the end just to be a wild card in the National League.

The Reds, meanwhile, continue to play out the season in last place. They had turned things around for a while and were playing decent baseball despite their disastrous start to the season. However, Cincinnati is back in a slump, going 2-8 in their last 10 games, and so the end of the season can’t come soon enough for them.

Finally Healthy

Anthony DeSclafani will get the start for Cincinnati on Sunday. He finally appears to be healthy after a season and a half on the shelf. DeSclafani didn’t pitch at all in 2017 because of elbow problems, only to start this season on the DL with an oblique strain. However, he returned in early June and has gone 7-4 with a 4.34 ERA over 15 starts. He’s had a couple subpar outings lately but did go 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA in five starts in August.

DeSclafani has already faced the Cardinals twice this year and neither outing has gone particularly well. He’s allowed eight earned runs on 15 hits over 8.1 innings in those two starts.

DeClafani has also struggled in his career against the likes of Marcell Ozuna, Greg Garcia, and Matt Carpenter, so his track record against the Cardinals isn’t great. Ozuna may not play as he struggles with a shoulder problem, but the St. Louis lineup still has a few dangerous hitters despite getting shutout on Saturday.

Back from the Bullpen

St. Louis will turn to Luke Weaver to start against the Reds on Sunday. Weaver recently moved to the bullpen to accommodate an over-crowded St. Louis rotation. However, he’s getting a spot start on Sunday to help give Jack Flaherty and the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest. In 24 starts this season, Weaver is 6-11 with a 4.67 ERA. He’s had plenty of good starts, but those have been offset somewhat by a few rough starts.

For the most part, Weaver has pitched well against the Reds during the early part of his big league career. He has allowed six runs on 11 hits over 11 innings in two starts against Cincinnati this year. However, the Reds have quite a few hitters like Billy Hamilton, Scooter Gennett, and Tucker Barnhart who have found a nice groove lately despite the team’s inability to win games.

Red Birds Reign

I have to think that St. Louis will be far more motivated in a day game to put forth a good effort. DeClafani’s track record against some of the St. Louis hitters also concerns me. Weaver will have a fine day and do just enough to put his team in a position to win. Bet on the Cardinals -150 to beat the Reds on Sunday.

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