The St. Louis Cardinals host the Chicago Cubs on Monday night with the teams in first and second place in the NL Central. It's the first time they have faced off while in first and second place this late in the season since Sept. 20, 2009, the Elias Sports Bureau notes.
The Cardinals are looking to extend a six-game win streak, which has given them the best record in baseball at 18-6 entering play on Monday. Here are some of the statistical storylines for tonight's game at 8 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.
The Cardinals enter Monday night's game with a 2.21 ERA, best in MLB. It's even better at home, where the Cardinals are 11-2 with a 1.87 ERA this season. A big part of that has been Carlos Martinez, who has a 3-0 record and a 1.73 ERA, fourth-best among NL starting pitchers this season.
Martinez is known for his fastball; he's averaging 94.1 mph on his heater this season, fifth-hardest among NL starters. Opposing hitters are batting .255 against Martinez's fastball this season, a big improvement over his first two seasons, when they hit .313 and .294, respectively.
Though he has shown improvement with his fastball, he has had the greatest success with his offspeed pitches this season. Opposing hitters are batting .119 against offspeed pitches from Martinez this season, fifth-best in the NL among starting pitchers (minimum two starts).
In particular, he has thrown his changeup 22 percent of the time, and opposing hitters are hitting .105 against it with 10 strikeouts, tied for fifth in the NL this season. It has been especially good against lefties, who are 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts against the pitch this season.
Though free agent acquisition Jon Lester was the talk of the Cubs' rotation entering this season, the Cubs' other southpaw starter has been having the better season. Travis Wood takes the hill for the Cubs on Monday night with a 3.04 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.
Wood relies mainly on his fastball/cutter, throwing those pitches 80 percent of the time this season. Over the last two seasons, only Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon have relied on their "hard stuff" more than Wood. This may not work against the Cardinals, who are hitting .287 against hard pitches this season, third-best in the NL.
In a small sample size, Wood's offspeed pitches have been great this season; opposing hitters are 2 for 15 this season with no extra-base hits.
Wood has thrown a first-pitch strike to 67 percent of batters this season, on pace to be a career best. Not surprisingly, Wood has been much more effective this season when he starts a hitter with an 0-1 count. Opposing hitters are batting .143 after starting with an 0-1 count against Wood compared with .357 when starting 1-0.
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday has started the season strong, hitting .321 with an .865 OPS this season. Holliday has been even more impressive with runners in scoring position, hitting .526 in those situations this season. Since the start of 2013, only Michael Brantley (.387) has a better average with runners in scoring position than Holliday's .384.
Holliday has faced Monday's starter Wood 43 times in his career, the most of any hitter against Wood. Holliday is 15 for 40 (.375) lifetime against Wood, with more than half of his hits going for extra bases (4 doubles, 4 home runs). Holliday's four home runs off Wood are tied for the most he has hit off a pitcher in his career. Not surprisingly, Holliday is hitting .444 against Wood with runners in scoring position in his career.