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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 15, 2012 at 12:44 PM

Everyone was looking forward to Johnny Cueto’s Sunday Night start against the St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN. Cueto was snubbed for an All-Star appearance by former Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa. And, many are certain that snubbing was the result of prior bad blood between the Reds and the Cardinals.

Cueto was seething with such rage that his pitching hand blistered! Okay, that’s probably not what happened. But, Cueto did have a blister on his pitching hand, and has been scratched from Sunday’s appearance. The Reds are hoping he can throw Tuesday Night at home against Arizona.

Homer Bailey will get the start instead. That’s very good news for the Cardinals because Bailey was on nobody’s list as a potential All-Star, and because St. Louis is in desperate need of a win after losing the first two games of this series. Returning from the All-Star Break, St. Louis was in position to make a statement about the NL Central race and the Wildcard race. They trailed Cincinnati by just 1.5 games for second place in their division. Had they won Friday and Saturday, St. Louis would now be AHEAD of the Reds and right on the backs of Pittsburgh.

They didn’t.

St. Louis lost the first two battles by scores of 5-3 and 3-2, and now trails both the Reds and the Pirates by 3.5 games in the NL Central standings.  Those losses are also a killer in the Wildcard race because so many teams are fighting for just two spots.

 

NL WILDCARD RACE (2 spots available)

NL Central Runner Up: 49-38

Atlanta: 48-39

LA Dodgers: 48-41

NY Mets: 46-42

St. Louis: 46-42

Just two weekend losses, and the Cards go from being right in the thick of things to falling off the pace. And, somebody out of Atlanta and the NY Mets will win Sunday afternoon because they’re playing each other!

Tonight’s game is obviously crucial for the Cards. Here’s why drawing Bailey instead of Cueto is such a break…

Cueto: 2.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 5 HR’s allowed in 120.1 innings

Bailey: 4.14 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 16 HR’s allowed in 104.1 innings

Cincinnati plays in a good home run park. St. Louis has a shot to win with the longball tonight vs. Bailey. Note that the Reds were about -160 on the early line when Cueto was expected to pitch. As we go to press, they’re only -120 with Bailey. The total has gone up from 8.5 to 9 because of Bailey’s vulnerabilities as well.

Let’s see how tonight’s scheduled pitcher for the Cards, Jake Westbrook, measures up against Bailey in those same stats…

Westbrook: 3.75 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8 HR’s allowed in 105.2 innings

Bailey: 4.14 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 16 HR’s allowed in 104.1 innings

Better ERA, fewer dingers, and a fighting chance to salvage a game in this series when things were looking so bleak against Cueto. Best of luck to those of you investing in tonight’s ESPN game.

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