Coming out of the All-Star break, the Miami Marlins sat alone at the top of the NL Wild Card, but they came out and did what no team wants out of the break; they got swept. While Miami is still in a good position in terms of the Wild Card, there are plenty of teams on their heels, so they’ll need to keep their losing slides to a minimum. Following their rough series in Baltimore, the Marlins find themselves in St. Louis to take on the Cardinals, and we’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
If one team desperately needed to come out of the break and be successful from the jump, it was the Cardinals. While they couldn’t sweep the Nationals, they took two out of three games, including an 8-4 victory yesterday. The Cardinals' offense was highly impressive all series, scoring five or more runs in all three games and recording 13 or more hits in two.
Despite the series win, the Cardinals' pitching staff remained a liability in all three games. St. Louis will hand the ball to Miles Mikolas tonight for his 21st start of the year as they look to get better production from their veteran starters. The right-hander made the start for the Cardinals fresh out of the break, but it was in an opener role, as he pitched just three scoreless innings before being taken out.
Whether he’ll be used in a similar role tonight has not been made clear, but there is a good chance he acts again as a three or so inning opener. Mikolas and the Cards pitching staff will take on a Marlins lineup tonight that outhit the Orioles yesterday despite taking the loss. In their 5-4 loss that resulted in them getting swept, Miami picked up eight hits, but the 15 runners they left on base would prove to be too much.
The good news for Miami is that they will have Jesus Luzardo on the mound tonight, and he has been phenomenal as of late. The lefty has gone five straight starts in which he’s allowed two or fewer earned runs, which has lowered his ERA to 3.29 across 109.3 innings. In his most recent outing against the Cardinals on July 4th, he threw six scoreless innings with eight strikeouts.
Miami comes into the game listed at (-110) on the moneyline, and I’ll be backing them to get back on track tonight. Luzardo not only shut down the Cardinals' offense the last time he faced them, but the Miami offense has an ideal matchup on the mound between Mikolas, who struggles at home, and the St. Louis bullpen, who has put up a 5.26 ERA over the past month.
While St. Louis has found success at home against lefties over the past month, they are running into a brutal matchup with Luzardo. The lefty is in the 73rd percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 73rd percentile in expected batting average, and 84th percentile in strikeout percentage. Between those numbers and his 3.39 xFIP on the road, Luzardo is the ideal pitcher to have on the mound for Miami to snap their losing streak.
Meanwhile, Miles Mikolas is in the 20th percentile in xERA/xwOBA, 18th percentile in expected slugging percentage, and 6th percentile in expected batting average. Opponents are also hitting .284 against him when pitching at home, so even if he’s used as an opener, the Marlins have the chance to take on runs early.
Miami Marlins (-110)