The St. Louis Cardinals (48-48) will face the Cincinnati Reds (49-47) to open up a three-game series on Friday, when the Reds hope to build off their four-game sweep on the road against the Cardinals last month. Cincinnati has taken six of 10 overall from St. Louis this year, including two of three at home. These two teams are the closest competitors outside the National League wild card race, but they both have plenty of work to do if they want to play deep into October (the Padres, who own the second wild card spot, are six games ahead of the Reds).
Free Picks: St. Louis Cardinals vs Cincinnati Reds
Mahle goes for three in a row against unproven LeBlanc
What do you suppose was the lowest point of Wade LeBlanc’s 2021 season? He’s been signed and released three times, by good teams (the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers) and really bad ones (the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles, who have the two worst records in the American League). He’ll be 37 next month and, clearly, his career is coming to an end soon.
But not yet! With St. Louis, LeBlanc has found a groove in year No. 13, making him and the Cardinals an interesting consideration as +160 money line underdogs (10Bet) on the day’s MLB picks. The favored Reds are -196 money line chalk (10Bet), which has something to do with their recent success against the Cardinals — and something to do with the success of starter Tyler Mahle.
Cincinnati’s Mahle (7-3, 3.93 ERA) has faced the Cardinals twice in 2021 and won both starts. In that span, he has allowed just four earned runs in 12 innings (3.00 ERA), to go with 17 strikeouts versus nine hits and three walks. With that said, his numbers against St. Louis in 2020 were far less impressive, bringing his ERA down to 4.74 over his past five starts against them.
And Mahle hasn’t been at his best in recent games against non-Cardinals opponents, either. He’s 0-1 with a 5.47 ERA in his past five outings. The 26-year-old right-hander has walked three or more batters in four of those five starts, too.
Cincinnati’s main strength this year has been its potent offense, but that has cooled significantly in recent weeks. Over the past 15 days, the Reds rank 27th in team OPS (.633), and their best hitter, Nicholas Castellanos, revealed Wednesday that he has a microfracture in his right wrist.
Castellanos, who ranks seventh in the majors in OPS (.965) and is due for some MVP votes, told reporters he’ll need to rest for at least a couple of days. So count him out against the Cardinals, at least for now.
That’s great news for LeBlanc, who has a 2.92 ERA over 24 2/3 innings since joining the Cardinals in mid-June. He started in the rotation on June 28 and is 0-1 with a 2.50 ERA in four starts since. Against a slumping Reds offense without its best bat, that makes the Cardinals well worth some financial backing. We’ll take St. Louis in our BetPicks prediction.
- St. Louis is 6-4 on the money line in its past 10
- The UNDER has cashed in five of the Cardinals’ past nine games
- Cincinnati is 4-6 on the money line in its past 10
- The UNDER has cashed in six of the Reds past 10 games
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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University).