Sunday Night Baseball: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds

Two teams locked in a war of attrition in the jam-packed National League Central division get set to wrap up a 3-game series tonight at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the Cincinnati Reds (49-38, 25-16 home) look for a series sweep against the St. Louis Cardinals (46-42, 23-22 away).

With Cincinnati on a verge of a sweep, as well as a 6-game winning streak extending back to before the All-Star break, the Reds will send out Homer Bailey (7-6, 4.14 ERA) to face Jake Westbrook (7-7, 3.75 ERA) in what should be a solid duel between two improving pitchers. For Bailey, home has not been where his best pitching lies, posting a rough 1-4 record with a 5.86 ERA (0-3, 8.05 ERA in his last 4 starts at home). In fact, the last time Bailey faced the Cardinals in his season debut at home on April 7th, he was tagged for 3 home runs in a 7-1 loss, walking three batters and giving up 4 earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. Walks have been a significant problem for Bailey at home, and control will be a major factor for him against a strong hitting Cardinals batting order. It’s telling to note that in the last ten games in which Homer Bailey has started, the Reds are 6-1 when he’s allowed 1 walk or less. In games where he’s given up more than 1 walk, they are 0-3. In fact, in all 8 losses that Bailey has been apart of, he’s had 2 or more walks in 7 of them. It bodes well however that Bailey may have a better start tonight against the Cards, as he’s 2-3 with a 3.86 ERA against them in the past 7 starts, and has given up 11 walks in total over 37 1/3 innings of work. One concern however is that the current St. Louis lineup is hitting .333 collectively against him, with 6 homers in 93 at-bats. The long ball must be contained for Bailey to be successful this evening, and for the Reds to gain their 6th straight win and a series sweep of their division rivals.

For St. Louis, starter Jake Westbrook seems to have found a groove again, after suffering through an awful run of form in late May and early June. After losing 4 straight decisions, and being apart of 6 straight Cardinals losses, Westrbook contributed in 4 straight winning efforts, before becoming unlucky in a July 6th loss in which he pitched 6 2/3 innings of 1-run ball in a 3-2 fall to the Miami Marlins. Against the Reds this season, Westbrook had a fantastic outing back on April 9th, going 7 innings with no earned runs allowed and only 3 hits. Despite giving up 4 walks in the game, the Cardinals won 7-1, and Westbrook required only 88 pitches in the game, indicative of him forcing ground-ball outs by keeping the ball down in the strike zone. In his last 4 starts overall against Cincinnati though, Westbrook hasn’t been so solid, going 1-0 with a 5.75 ERA while allowing the Reds to hit .288 against him. Like Bailey, the long-ball has been an issue, giving up 5 homers in 96 total at-bats to the current Cincy lineup, so Westbrook would do well to keep the ball down especially against the likes of Joey Votto and spot-starter Chris Heisey, the latter of whom is 3-for-8 against Westbrook, with 3 home runs.

On the hitting side of things, the Cardinals continue to be one of the dominant forces in the National League, ranking in the top 6 of all major hitting categories. The Cardinals are 4th in runs (431), 2nd in batting average (.274), 2nd in on-base percentage (.340) and 6th in slugging (.431), and continue to get big production from guys like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran and David Freese. Of this group, Holliday poses the biggest threat to Homer Bailey, going .389 against him with 2 homers and 4 RBI during his career. Molina has also had success, going 3-for-9 against him with a home run, and David Freese has also contributed 2 homers in 11 at-bats against the Cincy starter. Again, the long ball is the X-factor for tonight’s game, considering that both pitchers are prone to give it up, so if the heart of the Cardinals order can come up with a big swing or two, they’ll shake their two-game losing streak and avoid the series sweep against the Reds.

For Cincinnati on the other hand, the players to watch for tonight at the plate are Joey Votto (.339, 14 homers, 48 RBI) and Brandon Phillips (.288, 10 homers, 48 RBI). While the Reds aren’t nearly the hitting team that the Cardinals are, ranking in the bottom-half of the league in all offensive categories, there are a few hitters that can change the course of the game in an instant. Keep an eye out for Brandon Phillips, who has had the most success against Jake Westbrook (7-for-17, .442 lifetime), and has 3 straight multi-hit games behind him. Joey Votto, while not having major success against Westbrook (1-for-9) is due to pick up his form after failing to reach base in the two games during this series so far. A hitter like this is bound to recover, and tonight may just be the night he blows up to drive the Reds to their 6th straight win.

Betting Lines for Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals at Betonline Sportsbook.

Cincinnati opened as big favorites to win at -160 odds under the assumption that ace starter Johnny Cueto was due to pitching this evening, but with the inclusion of Homer Bailey, the odds on the Reds have fallen to -120 at the present time. The Cardinals march in looking to avoid the sweep as +110 underdogs, having lost 3 of the last 4 meetings against the Reds this year, after winning 4 of 5 prior to that. With Bailey’s awful form at home however, this could be an excellent opportunity to take the Cards at favorable odds, as they try to avoid heading out of town without a victory.

Against the spread, odds are set firmly that this may be a tight game, as the Reds must cover 1.5 runs as favorites at +165 odds, and St. Louis will get 1.5 runs as underdogs to play with at -190 odds. Neither option seems fairly tempting, as it’ll be a major risk chasing Homer Bailey to have success at home against a talented hitting group like the Cardinals, and the odds are simply too high to take St. Louis to stay within 1 ½ runs, simply on the fact that the Reds are playing great baseball right now.

Looking to the total runs however, there’s opportunity to chase the over wager, with the over/under standing at 9 runs. With Bailey posting a 8.05 ERA in his last 4 starts at home, and with St. Louis looking to its power section to help them avoid a 3-game slump, we are liking the odds that this game goes over the mark for total runs tonight, with -115 odds for the over pickers. Choosing the under is extremely risky, with -105 odds, considering that both these pitchers can be hit hard when having an off day, and both batting orders can go off at anytime.

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