Wainwright gets curve straightened out

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Mat Latos and Adam Wainwright start tonight when the Reds and Cardinals renew their rivalry.Baseball is back as the second half of the major-league season kicks off today with a full slate of games. It’s never too early to start predicting division races, and this weekend provides us with several key divisional matchups that could separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Cardinals at Reds

The St. Louis Cardinals start the second half on a roll, with 11 wins in their last 16 games. The Cincinnati Reds, on the other hand, are just 9-11 since gaining a four-game division lead on June 17, and last week fell into second place in the NL Central.

Tonight’s starter, Adam Wainwright, has a 3.62 ERA over his last 10 starts since starting the season with a 6.16 ERA in his first seven starts. Opponents have a .474 OPS in at-bats ending in his curveballl in his last 10 starts, after posting a .643 mark to start the season.

Mat Latos gets the ball tonight for the home team. One of the hottest pitchers going into the break, he’s allowed just two runs over 25 innings (0.72 ERA) in his last three starts. However, he has been awful against the Cardinals in his career. His 11.37 ERA in four starts is easily his worst versus any team.

Mets at Braves

Only a half game separates these two NL East rivals in the wild card race. The New York Mets have won four of six games versus the Atlanta Braves this year, but the Braves took the last two matchups after dropping the first four. The Mets have won season series just once in the last 15 years (2006).

Chris Young hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of his first six starts this season and has walked just eight batters in 37 innings. However, his 7.50 ERA in five career starts versus Atlanta is his highest against any NL team.

Most Wins Vs Any Team Since 2005

Tim Hudson owns a 3.56 ERA this season but his sinker has not been as sharp this year. Opponents are hitting .260 in at-bats ending in the pitch, his worst mark over the last four seasons.

Location seems to be the problem; just 43 percent of his sinkers have been thrown in the lower third of the zone or below this season, compared to 57 percent from 2009-11.

Red Sox at Rays

The Boston Red Sox enter the second half at 43-43, the first time they failed to win 50 games before the break since 2005.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that streak of six straight seasons (2006-11) of at least 50 pre-break wins was the longest current streak in the majors.

Hardest Remaining Schedules
Based on Current Records

The road doesn’t get any easier for Boston, who has the toughest remaining schedule among all teams. Their post-break opponents have a .530 winning percentage.

The Tampa Bay Rays are only a half-game back in the wild card standings but have not been playing well the past month.

They are just 10-16 since improving to 35-25 on June 10. The only AL team with a worse record during that span is the Seattle Mariners (9-16).

Stat of the Day

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that since 2001, only 54 percent of major-league teams in first place at the All-Star break (alone or tied) went on to win their divisions.