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Coming back home having left the W’s behind

The St. Louis Cardinals (3-9, 5th in the NLC) come back home after a disastrous six-game road trip that saw them go 1-5, including a sweep by the New York Yankees. They return to face the Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6, T-3rd in the NLC) who are coming off a sweep of the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs.

The Cardinals were 10-9 against the Pirates last season, including 5-5 against them at Busch Stadium after sweeping them in the final series of the season.

Game 13: Lynn v. Nova

Lance Lynn (0-1, 5.23 ERA) will take the ball in tonight’s series opener against a team that has given him fits. In his last time out, Lynn allowed four earned runs over five innings of work as he struggled against the Nationals. The last time Lynn faced the Pirates was in September of 2015 when he threw five shutout innings. While there are three Pirates who have faced Lynn twenty or more times and hit better than .300 against him, Jordy Mercer has absolutely ripped him to a .389/.450/.556 slash line.

Ivan Nova (1-1, 2.25 ERA) has pitched some of the best baseball of his life since being traded to the Pirates last summer. His career ERA in a Pirates uniform is a full run and a half better than his career ERA in a Yankees uniform. His success continued in his second time out, allowing just 3 earned runs over 6 innings, but took the loss to the Reds. He has never faced the Cardinals in his career. Dexter Fowler leads all Cardinals, having gone 2-for-3 against Nova in their careers.

Game 14: Leake v. Kuhl

If you’re wondering how you back up 8 innings of one run baseball, Mike Leake (1-1, 0.60 ERA) has a good idea. He threw 7 shutout innings against the Nationals his last turn on the bump. He’ll take the mound in the second game of the series. Leake was 1-2 with a 5.82 ERA in 4 starts against the Pirates last season. Ex-Cardinal David Freese has hit .560 against Leake in 25 at bats against him to lead the Pirates.

Chad Kuhl (1-0, 2.38 ERA) has two solid starts under his belt this season, allowing just a single run over 6.1 innings against the Red Sox last week. He was 0-1 with a 6.43 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last season. He allowed 2 earned runs over 5 innings in his only start in Busch Stadium. Both Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina are 2-for-4 against him.

Game 15: Wacha v. Cole

Michael Wacha (1-1, 3.00 ERA) continued his good start, allowing 3 earned runs over 6 innings of work against the Yankees in his second start of the season, though he still took the loss. Wacha was 0-1 with a 6.38 ERA over four starts against the Pirates last season. The Pirates are led by Andrew McCutchen‘s .480 batting average against him in 25 at bats.

Gerrit Cole (1-1, 5.29 ERA) started out rough on Opening Day, but has rebounded with two straight quality starts. He allowed 2 earned runs over 6 innings his last time out to get his first win of the season in a game against the Cubs. Cole was 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 2 starts against the Cardinals last year. He has a 3.13 ERA in 5 starts at Busch Stadium in his career. Matt Carpenter leads the Cardinals with a .385 batting average and 3 home runs against Cole in 26 at bats.

Who’s hot, who’s not

I think you can easily make a case that both Stephen Piscotty and Mike Leake are hot coming into this series. Piscotty has hit .318 with 2 home runs and 8 RBI in the six games since returning from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup the last two games of the first homestand. Leake, of course, threw seven scoreless innings his last time out.

On the cold side, I have to take Dexter Fowler. The Cardinals’ leadoff hitter is 3-for-22 over the past week with just a single extra base hit and a major contributing factor to their offensive woes to start the season.

It’s a tossup between David Freese and Andrew McMutchen for the Pirates. Freese has hit .389 along with a .522 on base percentage over the past week, but McCutchen has hit .333 with a .708 slugging percentage.

On the cold side, the Pirates have Josh Bell who is 1-for-15 over the last week, having started in 4 of the team’s six games.

On the shelf

Matt Carpenter is dealing with a finger injury that looks like it will take him out of the season opener. He is day-to-day as he deals with that. Tyler Lyons will also make what is expected to be his final rehab appearance for Memphis before being called up to help solidify the Cardinals’ bullpen.

Gregory Polanco is day-to-day with groin discomfort and has missed the last couple days. May be available off the bench to pinch hit if needed.

Ex-Cardinals Watch

2011 postseason hero David Freese signed a one year deal with Pittsburgh last season and then signed a two-year deal over the offseason to return. He wasn’t quite expected to have the role he has, but legal troubles with Jung-Ho Kang has given Freese an extended opportunity and he has responded, entering the series hitting .344/.488/.594 with 2 home runs.

Jon Doble has been writing about the St. Louis Cardinals since 2010. You can follow him on Twitter at @JonDobleRBD, find him as R27 at RedbirdTalk.com and you can hear him co-host The UCB Podcast every fourth Wednesday night of the month. Redbird Dugout is a member of the United Cardinal Bloggers.

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