Aug. 31 MLB Preview — Cincinnati Reds (63-70) at St. Louis Cardinals (73-59)

(Yadier Molina/Marcell Ozuna photo courtesy Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)

This is the full preview(s) as seen on the Winners and Whiners and Stat Salt websites. The confidence rating for all picks on a scale from 1 to 5 is in parentheses.

Note: The 5/5 does NOT represent the best overall pick of the day’s games when there are multiple games, simply the best pick(s) from each individual game.

When and Where: Saturday, Aug. 31, Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo., 7:15 p.m. EDT.

With the prospect of playing four games in the next two days, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds have scrambled their rotations to try and make it through a taxing stretch of schedule, with the Reds sending their best pitcher of the moment — Sonny Gray to the mound in the nightcap Saturday.

Gray looks to match career high with fifth consecutive winning start

Gray (10-6, 2.92 ERA) is looking for his sixth straight win overall and the second five-start winning streak of his career after accomplishing the feat from July 3-26, 2014. The right-hander has struck out 33 in 23 innings over the last four starts, limiting opponents to three runs and nine hits.

Gray shook off a two-run homer by Neil Walker to allow one other hit in six innings of Cincinnati’s 6-3 victory over Miami on Monday night. He has a 1.74 ERA during a seven-start unbeaten run, holding opponents to a .162 batting average while fanning 50 in 41 2-3 innings.

“It wasn’t an easy game,” said Gray, who changed into a new uniform after three innings, to the Reds’ official website. “I think I was able to kind of settle in a rhythm and get quick outs and see what happens. Obviously, I want to be a little bit better than that. You can’t walk five guys and expect positive results.

“I came in after the third and I just tried to resettle, kind of start over. Go out there and just start over. Here we are. Who cares what just happened. The game is 2-1. Let’s just start over. Let’s just start this day over with.”

One of the victories during his current winning streak came against the Cardinals on Aug. 15, conceding one hit in five innings while striking out 10 in a 2-1 victory. St. Louis, though, got the better of him at Busch on April 28, reaching him for two runs in five innings of a 5-2 victory.

Wacha looks to avoid winless August for Cards

Michael Wacha (6-6, 5.24) is winless in four starts since spending most of July in the Cardinals bullpen. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 5.71 ERA in that stretch, serving up four homers in 17 1-3 innings.

Wacha’s struggles contributed to him leaving one out shy of getting credit for a victory against Colorado last Sunday when he yielded three runs — two of them on solo homers — in 4 2-3 innings of an 11-4 Cardinals victory. The righty also threw 113 pitches, which prompted Mike Shildt to lift him after Nolan Arenado took him deep.

Wacha was a tough-luck loser to Gray in Cincinnati earlier this month, permitting two runs in five innings. He made two relief appearances against the Reds earlier this season, recording four shutout innings and picking up a win July 19 with a stint of 1 2-3 innings.

The loss to Gray ended a personal 11-game winning streak over the Reds for Wacha, who is also 11-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 18 career starts against the NL Central rivals. The right-hander is 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA in eight home starts versus Cincinnati.

Joey Votto has given Wacha issues, hitting .341 (14 for 41) with a homer and seven extra-base hits overall. Eugenio Suarez is 11 for 26 (.423) with a homer in their matchups.

Notable Trends

The Cardinals are:

  • 0-6 in their last six games vs. starters with a sub-1.15 WHIP.
  • 1-4 in Wacha’s last five Saturday starts.

The Reds are:

  • 15-3 in Gray’s last 18 starts.
  • 13-3 in Gray’s last 16 starts vs. above-.500 teams.
  • 6-2 in Gray’s last eight road starts.

*****5-Star Pick*****

Reds -0.5 runs first 5 innings (+125)

An aggressive play on Gray’s current form, with the Reds 10-1-2 at the midway point in his last 13 starts. Cincinnati has also backed him with runs in addition to him being effective, scoring three or more runs in four of his last six starts. The Reds are also 6-2-1 at the five-inning mark in their last nine overall.

****4-Star Pick****

Reds ML (-110)

Wacha’s impressive track record at home versus the Reds aside, the hedge is Gray answers the bell in this start given his current form. The right-hander could have to pick up the bullpen considering Tyler Mahle is making his first start in over a month in the first game, and his 6.47 hits allowed per nine innings bodes well against a Cardinals team that has occasionally struggled to score runs versus the Reds.

***3-Star Picks***

OVER 8 runs (-110)

This is more about picking against the number than it is against Gray and Wacha. The over has also trended with both pitchers — the over is 5-2 in Gray’s last seven starts and is 8-1-1 in the second game of Cincinnati’s last 10 doubleheaders.

The over has also hit in seven of Wacha’s last eight home starts and in the last four in the nightcap of Cardinals doubleheaders. The over is also 6-2 in Wacha’s last eight home starts against Cincinnati and 5-2-1 in the last eight overall versus the Reds.

Reds OVER 4 runs (Even)

A pick for consistency’s sake in taking the Reds to win and the over. Cincinnati had scored five or more runs in its four games before losing the series finale to Miami on Thursday night, and the day off could help the Reds offense bounce back without cooling off Aristides Aquino.

UNDER 4.5 runs first 5 innings (-131)

The hook might be just enough to deliver a victory for the under, which is 7-3 in Gray’s last 10 starts, 8-6-1 in the season series between the teams, and 2-0 in the righty’s two starts versus St. Louis. The under has split Wacha’s four starts since his return to the rotation.

UNDER 0.5 runs/NO 1st inning run (-115)

Gray has held opponents off the scoreboard in the first inning in seven of his nine starts since the All-Star break, including the last five. He also matched zeroes with Wacha earlier this month and blanked St. Louis in his other matchup this season.

Wacha has given up runs in two of his four starts since rejoining the rotation but has blanked the Reds in both his games this year.

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