The St. Louis Cardinals are officially back in first place in the NL Central today. They raced out to a 3.5 game lead awith a 16-7 April, but the Brewers won 13 of 15 mid May to unseat them. The Cards' 4-10 stretch mid-May didn't help. They have been trading wins and losses since May 27.
Tonight will mark the first time the Rockies and Cardinals have squared off since the Matt Holliday trade crashed and burned. If you are curious, Mitchell Boggs is 1-0 with a 3.22 ERA in a handful of starts. Ryan Ludwick is struggling but still a better cleanup hitter than Garrett Atkins. And Skip Schumaker has traveled to the infield and continues to hit and be a sparkplug.
How appropriate is it then that Carlos Gonzalez got his promotion today? It will be an interesting side story to see. Hopefully he starts tonight.
The Cardinals took the season series 4-3 on the strength of a 2-1home series win the last time Colorado visited Busch Stadium, which was the opening series of 2008.
St. Louis Cardinals (31-23, W1, t-1st)
Friday-Monday : 4-game series at Busch Stadium
Nothing really needs to be said about Albert Pujols. He remains an unconscious freak with the bat, but the rest of the lineup is very pedestrian. They are 18th in runs scored, 16th in HR, and 17th in wOBA. All across the board, they are average, if not slightly below. So give "The Machine" his due, but don't be too scared of this lineup. It has produced less than the likes of the Orioles, Nationals and Twins. Because of the Pujols and Co. nature of the lineup, the Cards have been looking at adding a bat via trade; Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday have been mentioned.
Rick Ankiel - LF
Brendan Ryan has filled in admirably for offseason acquisition and Opening Day cleanup hitter Khalil Greene at shortstop. Tony LaRussa, ever the pioneer, has him batting ninth, behind the pitcher. Joe Thurston has filled in at third while Troy Glaus is on the bench. Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick have had very inconsistent seasons, and their return to form (and the return of Glaus) would add a lot of clout back into the lineup. As it is, only three players from the lineup are deemed "above average" by wOBA: Pujols, Thurston and Schumaker. Chris Duncan (.255, 5, 27) will also get starts in the OF at the expense of Ankiel and Rasmus.
What has fed the Cardinals rise to the top has been their pitching. Chris Carpenter (4-0, 0.71) has returned to form after injury - he has allowed just 3 runs in 6 starts, didn't allow an earned run until his fifth start, and allowed just a solo home run by Laynce Nix (yes, there is a relation) in a three-hit complete game his last start. Luckily, we managed to miss him in this four-game series. The rest of the rotation has been impressive too. In fact, it may be the best pitching staff in the majors. To wit:
Ladies and gentlemen, those are fantastic numbers for any starting pitcher. I would love for those to match any of our starting pitchers, let alone the entire staff. In fact, out of the Rox rotation, Jorge de la Rosa and Ubaldo Jimenez are better than the Cards' average in HR/9 and FIP, and Jason Hammel is a tinge better at K/BB. That's it. Other than that, the Cards' team average is better than any Rockies starter. With names like Piniero, Thompson Wellemeyer and Lohse gets starts, it's easy to be unheralded.
Just don't let me hear "Oh man! We're getting shut down by these guys?" There are some quality arms at LaRussa's disposal. Oh and by the way, their unheralded closer, Ryan Franklin, has 13 saves, a 1.29 ERA and a 0.81 WHIP. His one blown save came May 10th, when he allowed his only two home runs of the year, to Jerry Hairston Jr and pinch-hitter .
Tonight, 6:15 pm MDT
|2009 - Jorge De La Rosa||0-6||5.43||1.43||57||26|
|2009 - Adam Wainwright||5-3||3.38||1.31||59||28|
Saturday, June 6, 5:15 pm MDT
|2009 - Aaron Cook||3-3||4.94||1.50||28||25|
|2009 - Todd Wellemeyer||5-5||5.05||1.62||39||27|
Sunday, June 7, 12:15 MDT
|2009 - Ubaldo Jimenez||3-6||4.11||1.48||57||30|
|2009 - Joel Pineiro||5-5||3.86||1.24||25||8|
Monday, June 8, 12:15 MDT
|2009 - Jason Marquis||7-4||4.10||1.37||35||27|
|2009 - Brad Thompson||0-1||4.12||1.22||6||3|
Albert Pujols is on a tear. When is he not? The Machine has gone 13-for-25 with 3 HR in the past seven days. Brendan Ryan, Joe Thurston and Colby Rasmus all have at least 7 hits in the past week. Rasmus has the only Cardinal HR in the past week by one not named Albert.
Ryan Ludwick was scuffling a bit before he hit the disabled list May 13, but since he returned May 29, he has only two singles in 23 ABs. Rick Ankiel has managed just 3 hits in his last 21 trips, and Yadier Molina has scratched out four singles in his last 20 ABs.
Joel Piniero (back) is listed as questionable and Kyle Lohse (forearm) is listed as doubtful. Khalil Greene was placed on the 15-day DL May 28 for anxiety issues, while Troy Glaus (shoulder) and Jaime Garcia (elbow) are also on the 15-day DL.