Mike Leake makes the start facing Cubs Jake Arrieta in Game One of the Cardinals-Cubs three game series beginning tomorrow afternoon.
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ALREADY A POSTSEASON 'FEEL' FOR THE CARDINALS
With the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Wild Card race; along with, the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets, they felt a touch of the postseason atmosphere recently. Prior to their series against the Colorado Rockies, they played a four game series at AT&T Park, hosted by the Giants. Being in contention with one another, the feel of postseason play pressure was apparent. Two very competitive teams vying for position in a heated race which now in a three-way tie.
Today is a day off for the Cardinals as they travel to Wrigley Field to face the top seed team in the MLB. The Chicago Cubs. The northenders of Chicago clinched their NL Central Division title this week while playing the Milwaukee Brewers; and, were the first team to do so in both MLB leagues. The Cubs need two games to lock-in postseason home field advantage. The Cardinals need all the wins they can collect to stay in "The Hunt for Red October", in this last road series and their last seven games at Busch Stadium.
GAME ONE AT WRIGLEY FIELD ~ FRIDAY AFTERNOON
Tomorrow, Friday September 23, an afternoon game (1:00 CST) for Cardinals Mike Leake (9-10/4.54 ERA), who will face Cubs Jake Arrieta (17-7/2.96 ERA). In my opinion, these next three games will also have a postseason feel. Heated even more so than usual with these two rival teams playing one another. With the outcome of each game semi-predictable, not one game can be taken for granted by either team. Each team has a stake invested for a successful series.
Leake is making his fourth start since his return from the DL (shingles). In his road appearances, he is 7-4/4.53 ERA. Against the Cubs, he holds a 4.26 in 19 IP, given up 3 HR/9 ER while only issuing three walks and has 14 strikeouts. His September, 16.1 IP/2 HR/8 ER/3-BB/10 SO.
Arrieta, a very strong pitcher that Cardinals team and fans are familiar with, has experienced his own struggles of late. At home, he holds a 2.82 ERA in 92.2 IP and only given up 6 HR/29 ER. The one concern that has risen for Arrieta. His walks issued to strikeouts. In September, he's pitched 17.1 innings, given up 2 HR/8 ER. Also, he has issued eight free passes in conjunction with his 15 strikeouts. Even against St. Louis this season, 15.2 IP, he has given up two home runs, six earned runs, and has had 16 strikeouts; however, issued 7 walks.
Jake Arrieta, 2015 Cy Young Award winner, held a 0.75 ERA last season after the All Stars. This season, second half, he holds a 3.42 ERA.
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Listening to 670 The Score, out of Chicago, this morning interesting note and conservation. "Will Arrieta be allowed to go the distance if he has a no-hitter or shutout going?" Answer: "If he is not close to a high pitch count, sure". "Because, if he has a no-hitter; or, shutout going, his pitch count is going to be in an acceptable range ~ and yes, probably would be allowed to go 120 pitches total." Which that doesn't bother me. Let him wear his arm out for future starts. But, interesting to note, Arrieta has been scored upon due to walks issued in the early portion of his starts. So, I'm not looking for a shutout by Arrieta. Runs scored on him, very possible with his recent production. His last appearance he went 6 IP, gave up 1 HR/3 ER with four walks and only five strikeouts at Wrigley Field. For September, he is 1-2 with both losses at Wrigley Field.
Therefore, in my opinion, the fear of our Cardinals facing Jake Arrieta is not quite as strong, at least for me personally, this season as it was last season. In the second half of 2015, the Cy Young Award winner held a 0.75 ERA. This season since the All Star Break, he holds a 3.42 ERA. In 71 IP his has issued 30 walks to only 55 strikeouts.
As always, each game will be hard fought between the "Route 66 Rival" teams. They will not disappoint.