While MLB Opening Day is on Thursday, you can still get your baseball fill today as the Cincinnati Bearcats take the trip south to face the nationally ranked Louisville Cardinals this evening.
UC (10-12, 1-2 American Athletic Conference) has lost seven of its last 10 games, including a series loss over the weekend to Tulane. The Bearcats are now 3-7 on the road. While that information leans against a win for them, there is some recent history that supports their cause tonight. Last season, the Bearcats hosted the then No. 1 Cardinals and thanks to a four-run second inning, came away with a 6-3 victory. Louisville has fallen all the way to No. 10 this season so this will … still be a really tough task. UofL won 12-straight against the Bearcats before last year’s loss and currently sits at 18-6 overall, with a 13-4 mark at home.
Who are the Louisville Cardinals?
So we’ve already learned a little bit about the Cardinals, but let’s go a little deeper. The strength of this team is on the mound. With a team ERA of 3.38, the Cardinals have done a good job of limiting opposing offenses, especially out of the bullpen. Sam Bordner has posted a 0.75 ERA in 12 relief innings, while striking out 16 batters. Bobby Miller (1.20 ERA, 15 strikeouts in 15 innings) and Rabon Martin (1.86 ERA, 10 strikeouts, 9 2⁄3 innings) are also shutdown relievers. Based on Louisville’s last midweek test against Western Kentucky, the Bearcats should expect to see a number of different pitchers. Against the Hilltoppers, the Cardinals used eight hurlers in an 8-5 win.
While their pitching is deep, the Cardinals are also a solid group of hitters. Drew Campbell (.375/.453/.518) has put in work as a pinch hitter and a starter in the outfield, while first baseman Logan Wyatt (.353/.513/.541) has an incredible eye and leads the team with 12 extra-base hits. Second baseman Devin Mann (.300/.451/.500) and outfielder Jake Snider (.298/.450/.381) can pile up the hits as well, but the Cardinals are not a particularly dangerous team from a power perspective, with only 14 homers.
Its clear that the strength of the Bearcats’ offense has come from the middle of the infield. Shortstop Manny Rodriguez (.326/.394/.570) and second baseman Kyle Mottice (.304/.385/.391) are both hitting above .300, with Mottice serving as an excellent table setter due to his patience and success on the base paths (seven steals on seven tries).
However, as a team, the Bearcats are still stuck in the mud, much like they’ve been in recent history. They are hitting just .252 as a team and reaching base at a .345 clip. In addition, they have scored a total of 106 runs in 22 games, which ranks second to last in the American Athletic Conference. Getting A.J. Bumpass going would go a long way to improving the lineup, as the right fielder is batting only .234 this season. However, he does lead the team in home runs (four) and put together a six-game hitting streak going before an 0-for-2 showing on Sunday against Tulane.
Louisville might actually be better off just using a super bullpen approach with its depth at reliever. That will make for an extreme challenge for the Bearcats, even with Rodriguez and Mottice. The Cardinals are clearly a program that has it figured out and UC is still trying to get there. That will likely show on the field.
Louisville 7 Cincinnati 3