After beating the division-worst Cincinnati Reds in two out of three games at home, the St. Louis Cardinals travel to Wrigley Field for four games against the MLB-best Chicago Cubs. As much as Cardinals fans anxiously await the chance to face their decades-long rivals, they are also dealing with the unfortunate news of pitcher Michael Wacha’s recent shoulder injury.
Early speculations were (and still are) that this could mark the end of the 2016 MLB season for Wacha. His current situation involves a resurfacing of the injury he suffered in 2014, a rare stress reaction in his shoulder, which is considered a precursor to a stress fracture.
Prior to the intra-divisional NL Central series, St. Louis (60-54) trails Chicago (71-41) by 12 games. If the Cardinals have any hope of catching up to the Cubs before the MLB postseason, winning three or four games at Wrigley Field would be a good way to start.
Cubs Vs. Cardinals Preview
While there is still plenty of the regular season left, the Cubs are still the best team in Major League Baseball. The Washington Nationals (67-46) and the Texas Rangers (68-47) are the two next best teams in the MLB. And while the Cardinals may be a full 12 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central, they are still very much in the fight for a Wild Card playoff spot. The Miami Marlins are also 60-54, tied with St. Louis for the final spot. The Los Angeles Dodgers (64-50) currently hold the other Wild Card position. Assuming the Cubs finish the season with the best record in the National League, they’ll face the winner of the Wild Card game in their first series of the postseason.
Game 1 Starters
Starting for St. Louis on Thursday will be Carlos Martinez (10-7, 3.29 ERA). So far this season, Martinez has pitched 108 strikeouts and 47 walks in just over 131 innings. Starting on the mound for the Chicago Cubs will be Jon Lester (12-4, 2.93 ERA), who has 133 strikeouts and 38 walks in just over 135 innings.
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Michael Wacha’s Shoulder Injury Update
A common injury among MLB pitchers is a torn ligament in their pitching arm, which is commonly repaired by Tommy John surgery. Michael Wacha, on the other hand, has a rare condition known as a stress reaction affecting the scapula bone in the shoulder. As explained by St. Louis Today, the real threat of the injury is how it could develop into something worse for the right-handed starter. Just as in 2014 when the injury was first discovered, it’s unclear this time how long Wacha will be on the disabled list. In the meantime, St. Louis has called up Alex Reyes from Memphis.
Michael Wacha’s Future
Of course, this leads to speculation about Michael Wacha’s future and his career with the St. Louis Cardinals and in Major League Baseball. Since a spot in the regular starting rotation isn’t an immediate option, many think moving Wacha to the bullpen would mean that he could return from the DL sooner. It would also require much less of his shoulder for any given game, meaning he may be able to stay active in a different role.
In an interview with Fox Sports, the 2015 MLB All-Star and 2013 NLCS MVP said his only focus is on getting healthy and contributing to the continued success of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I’m not happy about it. I was hoping it was just some inflammation or something in there that was causing it… to have that kind of pain in there. Time to rehab, try my hardest to get back out there and compete for this team and win a championship.”
Where To Watch
Game 1 of the four-game series at Wrigley Field featuring the Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals begins at 7:05 p.m. CT. The game will air regionally on Fox Sports Midwest and out-of-market on the MLB Network. Plenty of seats are still available through Tickets.com to see the Cubs vs. Cardinals series live in Chicago.
Friday afternoon’s game will begin at 1:20 p.m. and also airs on Fox Sports Midwest and the MLB Network. Saturday afternoon’s game also begins at 1:20 p.m. and only airs regionally on Fox Sports Midwest. The fourth and final game of the series is scheduled to begin at 7:08 p.m. CT on Sunday, August 12. Game 4 of the Cubs/Cardinals series will air exclusively on ESPN.
[Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images]