ST. LOUIS — To look at the Cardinals’ schedule and see the Mariners playing at Busch Stadium in the middle of September might seem like a mistake. The interleague foes never have met this late in the season.
But uncommon meetings at unusual times have happened across the majors because of the realignment that gave both the NL and AL an odd number of teams. At least the Cardinals will finish the regular season against a division foe. The Tigers, on the other hand, will spend the final weekend at Miami facing the Marlins for the first time since 2004. While the Astros have relocated to the AL, watching them host the Yankees in their final three games also will seem strange.
With such an unfamiliar foe on the schedule, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny and his coaching staff were planning to spend a lot of time in front of their computers between Thursday and Friday night’s games.
“That’s why it’s so valuable to have the video system we have,” Matheny said. “We can see their recent stuff and see what they’re doing right now.”
Like many teams, the Cardinals no longer assign an advance scout to provide intel on upcoming opponents. They instead rely on a state-of-the-art video scouting program that, with a few clicks, can bring to the screen anything and everything they want to see about the Mariners.
What they should see is a team that is ripe to be swept. Here are five reasons why:
The Mariners aren’t playing very well. And that’s an understatement. Seattle was just swept by the lowly Astros, and in convincing fashion. The Mariners were outscored 25-7 and managed only five hits in each of the three games.
The King won’t pitch here. Felix Hernandez, the face of the Mariners’ franchise, has been put on hold since a 3-1 loss at Kansas City Sept. 2 because of a back issue. Hernandez has struggled in the second half but he’s the type of star who rises to the occasion when he gets to work in front of 40,000 fans.
Their already-challenged offense will be without one of its most productive hitters. Because the DH isn’t used in NL parks, Seattle will have to sit Kendrys Morales or play him at first instead of Justin Smoak. Morales leads the Mariners with 76 RBIs and a .280 batting average but has gotten most of his at-bats as a DH this season.
The Mariners struggle to score. Still. They might not finish last in AL scoring for a fifth consecutive year, but they’ll be close. They’re tied for next-to-last behind the White Sox going into the weekend. They’re third in home runs (168) but last in batting average (.240).
Their pitching isn’t that great, either. Even with the formidable duo of Hernandez and Friday night starter Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.97 ERA), the Seattle rotation’s 4.32 ERA ranks 10th in the AL. Its bullpen is next to last.
Not quite everything favors the Cardinals, however. They tend to scuffle against starters they haven’t seen much and will be facing three this weekend that not a single Cardinals has faced in the majors.
Even more cause for concern: Saturday starter James Paxton is a left-hander and the Cardinals have a reputation for not hitting lefties. Paxton, who will be making his second big-league start, was rated No. 57 on mlb.com’s preseason top 100 prospects list. He beat the Rays in his debut last week by allowing two runs in six innings.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at email@example.com.