Cardinals vs. Reds: RHP Shelby Miller vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod

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St. Louis Cardinals (79-64) vs. Cincinnati Reds (67-76)

RHP Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, .241 OAV) vs. RHP Dylan Axelrod (1-1, 3.18 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, .219 OAV)

Monday, September 8, 2014: 7:10 p.m. at Great American Ball Park

* * *

One of the remaining young Cardinals pitchers to either not be traded (Joe Kelly), injured (Michael Wacha), or stuck in flux (Carlos Martinez, Kyle Siegrist, Trevor Rosenthal), the former first-round selection has solidified his spot in the rotation so far in 2014.

Since the end of June, Miller’s ERA has hovered above four. He is yet to have the immediate success of teammates Wacha and Rosenthal, but it seems useful to keep in perspective that he is only 23 years old and is under Cardinals control until 2019.

There seems to be two Shelby Miller’s: one who is dynamic at home with a career record of 13-8 with a 2.57 ERA and just 15 home runs in 189 innings pitched, and then the road version who is 11-10 with a 4.45 ERA and has allowed 25 home runs in 157.2 innings pitched.

Both times Shelby has seen Cincinnati this year; he has wound up on the wrong side of the win/loss column. Back on April 9 and May 23, he would pick up the loss in each start, where his team would score him a combined three runs of support.

Here is the lineup he will face tonight via the team’s Twitter account:

CF – Billy Hamilton (2-for-5, 1 3B, 2 BB’s)

1B – Brayan Pena (1-for-1, 1 RBI)

3B – Todd Frazier (3-for-11, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 2 K’s)

C – Devin Mesoraco (2-for-7, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K)

2B – Brandon Phillips (4-for-14, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 5 K’s)

RF – Jay Bruce (1-for-8, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 3 BB’s, 3 K’s)

LF – Chris Heisey (2-for-7)

SS – Zack Cozart (1-for-9, 3 K’s)

P – Dylan Axelrod (yet to face Miller)

* * *

Getting the ball in the opening game of what could have been a critical series had the Redlegs stayed in the hunt will be Dylan Axelrod. Much like not a single Reds fan planned for this series to mean absolutely nothing to their club’s playoff chances, they also did not expect Axelrod to be pitching.

All six runs that the Ax-man (let’s just roll with that nickname—I’m sure he’s been called it a time or three in his life anyway) has allowed this season have come via the home run ball. If you want to take a hilariously small sample size, in his one start and five innings pitched at home this year, he is yet to allow not only a home run, but also a run of any kind. Take from that what you will.

Also under the category of too small of a sample size, in his four career starts against National League foes prior to joining the Reds, his ERA was a not-so-solid 7.97.

For all the thumping the Cardinals have done against the Reds in the past, maybe switching up the starting pitching may play in Cincinnati’s favor. Beating the Cardinals would certainly do nothing but inflate their decimated confidence (and keep them out of last place for the time being).

Here is the lineup he will face via the team’s Twitter account:

3B – Matt Carpenter (yet to face Axelrod)

CF – Jon Jay (yet to face Axelrod)

LF – Matt Holliday (yet to face Axelrod)

1B – Matt Adams (yet to face Axelrod)

SS – Jhonny Peralta (2-for-8, 1 BB, 1 K)

C – Yadier Molina (yet to face Axelrod)

RF – Oscar Taveras (yet to face Axelrod)

2B – Kolten Wong (yet to face Axelrod)

P – Shelby Miller (yet to face Axelrod)

* * *

On Monday night down at the ballpark, it won’t be Irish Heritage Night, or German Heritage Night, or Spanish Appreciation Night, it will be, show-some-damn-pride night. There is no question the Reds are out-talented by this stacked Cardinals bunch, but a whole hell of a lot of people paid their hard-earned money early in the season thinking this would be a big series. Things have not gone the Reds way, but if they come out with the same effort as they did against New York, there won’t even be a one-run game for them to lose.

Tonight, it’s Miller v. Axelrod and first pitch is at 7:10 p.m.