Cardinals vs. Reds Odds, Preview, Prediction: Cincinnati Will Get to Jon Lester (Monday, August 30)

Cardinals vs. Reds Odds, Preview, Prediction: Cincinnati Will Get to Jon Lester (Monday, August 30) article feature image

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images. Pictured: Jonathan India

  • Jon Lester looks to slow down the Reds' postseason push on Monday night in Cincinnati.
  • The veteran southpaw has been shaky throughout 2021 and was acquired to eat innings for St. Louis.
  • Anthony Dabbundo breaks down the matchup and how he's fading Lester below.

Cardinals vs. Reds Odds

Cardinals Odds+165
Reds Odds-190
Time6:40 p.m. ET
Odds as of 9 a.m. and via DraftKings.

San Diego's recent slump has opened up the NL Wild Card race for teams from outside the NL West, and no two teams have benefitted more from that than Cincinnati and St. Louis. The Reds and Cardinals had almost no path to catch the first place Brewers in their division, but now the Reds are in pole position in the wild card and the Cardinals are chasing close behind.

St. Louis is 3.5 games back of Cincinnati entering a pivotal three-game series on Monday, where the Cardinals are starting lefty Jon Lester and the Reds counter with recently improved right-hander Luis Castillo.

A look at Castillo's season-long numbers don't flatter him much after he had a terrible start to 2021, but his recent return to form isn't fully priced into the market and provides value on the Reds in the first five innings. Castillo has been the Reds ace for the better part of two months and Cincinnati has mashed bad pitching at Great American Ball Park all season long.

Lester Still Struggling for Cardinals

Lester hasn't been good for multiple seasons now, but his strikeout rate is at a career low and his wOBA and xBA allowed are career worst numbers. His 5.26 xERA is among the worst in MLB among pitchers who have maintained a role in starting rotations all season and his 5.26 FIP and 5.15 xFIP suggest there's no fluke in the underlying numbers. His inability to strike out batters against a lineup that has strikeout issues, but also crushes balls in play, is an issue.

Castillo has been most vulnerable to walks and the deep ball when he's not pitching well, but the Cardinals lineup isn't particularly good at either. St. Louis is 20th in walk rate against right-handed pitching this season and 26th in ISO, a measure of raw power. The Cardinals are just 22nd in hard-hit rate so they probably won't punish many Castillo mistakes early in the game.

Reds' Castillo Turned a Corner

The Reds don't have a lot of success this year against lefties relatively speaking, as they rank in the bottom 10 in wRC+. But there's no real reason to think a lineup with plenty of good righties such as Jonathan India, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez wouldn't be able to hit lefties. Only Coors Field has played as more of a hitters park for home runs than Great American this season and there is expected to be a 8-10 mph wind out to centerfield on Monday night.

After Castillo allowed four runs in five innings to Chicago on May 29, his ERA sat at 7.22. The first two months of the season couldn't have gone worse for the Reds right-hander. But the Reds improvement has followed closely with his own improvement, as he's lowered his ERA to 4.29 by the end of August. The summer months have been excellent for him as he's allowed three or fewer runs in 15 of 16 starts. He's surrendered one or fewer runs in 10 of those 16 outings.

His xERA is even lower than 4.29 at 3.78, as are his FIP at 3.91 and xFIP at 3.78. Considering the outlier of the first two months, it's remarkable that he's above the 50th percentile in almost every pitching category.

Cardinals-Reds Pick

The Reds bullpen has been among the worst in baseball at protecting leads all season and I don't like to bet run lines on home teams because they usually get one fewer inning to get the minimum required two-run margin. The value on this game is avoiding the bullpens altogether and backing Cincinnati in the first five innings.

Its offense is explosive enough to get margin the first two times through the order and a much improved Castillo has the ability to shut down a streaky Cardinals offense.

Pick: Cincinnati first five innings -1 (-110 or better)

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