Series Preview: Cards at New York Mets

On the heels of a hot streak, the Cardinals rolled into Chicago to the tune of one of baseball’s most celebrated rivalries. The trip to the Windy City did not go the way the Cardinals had hoped, as they dropped the opening two and had to salvage Sunday night in front of the ESPN national audience to avoid the sweep. Even that took extra innings.

The bi-polar Cardinals will take their show further East on the road as they slide into another city that is inhabited by an old rival. The team that has become known as “Pond Scum” around the Gateway City will play host to the Redbirds this week for a three game set.

Current Snapshot

St. Louis: 55-44, First Place, NL Central, 1 Game ahead of Cincinnati. The Cards have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games and have been showing signs of life since the All Star break. At the same time, they floundered in Chicago to the extent of frustration against a team that they should perform better against if they are in fact the “team to beat” in this division.

New York: 50-49, Third Place, NL East, 7.5 Games back of division leader Atlanta. The Mets are 2-8 over their last 10 games and seem to be on the verge of losing their season. The manager is rumored to be on the hot seat and the players have not performed to the level necessary, causing the team to show up in trade rumors with our other I-70 team, the Royals.

Pitching Matchup

Tuesday, July 27, 6:10 P.M. CST: Adam Wainwright (14-5, 1.94 ERA) vs Jon Niese (6-4, 3.54 ERA)
Wainwright is doing everything in his power to ensure that he does not get left in the dark when it comes to the Cy Young award this season. He has been lights out lately, though many of his starts in the summer heat of St. Louis have been shortened to six innings or so. Wainwright has not surrendered an earned run in his last three starts and is one of the most prolific pitchers in his home ballpark. Jason Bay will look to find his stroke against a pitcher that he has posted a .353 average against in his career. Carlos Beltran, on the other hand, may look to seek revenge for being on the receiving end of one of the most famous pitches in St. Louis Cardinal history.

Niese does not have much of a history against the Redbirds, but what history he has, he would like to forget. In a short outing last season, he sustained an injury to his leg that required surgery to repair. He has been on of New York’s occasional bright spots this season, though not as sharp in his last start. Still, Niese matches up well for the Mets and should give them an opportunity to overcome the Cardinals’ ace and possibly pull out a win.

Wednesday, July 28, 6:10 P.M. CST: Jaime Garcia (9-4, 2.21 ERA) vs Mike Pelfrey (10-5, 4.00 ERA)
There may not be a better story than Jaime Garcia’s this season for the Cardinals. A pitcher that was overshadowed by other arms going into Spring Training, Jaime has claimed the third spot in the rotation and been dominant at times. At other times, he has been hittable, but he seems to work his way into and out of trouble with some grit.

Mike Pelfrey has been as up and down as the team he plays for this season. While his overall line does not look bad, his last few games have just about wrecked it. While his most recent start suggests that he may be back on track, he has suffered through some horrible pitching, giving up more base runners than innings pitched as of late. Matt Holliday is hitting 375 against Pelfrey in his career, but Randy Winn can only boast a .100 average despite facing him more times than any other St. Louis hitter.

Thursday, July 29, 11:10 A.M. CST: Blake Hawksworth (4-6, 5.23 ERA) vs Johan Santana (8-5, 2.79 ERA)
The Cardinals have survived through most of the season based on their pitching. Blake Hawksworth is the example of both the things that are going right for the team and the reason why the team desperately needs another arm. While the reliever-turned-starter has given the Cardinals serviceable outings and impressed fans beyond his ability this season, he has not been the dominant part of the rotation that the Cardinals need him to be. His last start did not last five innings and, thanks in large part to the bullpen, he did not leave the team in a position to win the game. He has very little experience against this Mets team and the Cardinals will hope that he can keep them in contention against one of New York’s best.

Johan Santana has not been his usual, dominant self in 2010, but you could not tell that over his last three starts. Posting an ERA under one (0.82) while striking out 14 batters over the course of 22 innings, Santana may be finding the proverbial “groove”. Santana always pitches the Cardinals tough, but the resident superstar, Albert Pujols, may be pretty happy to see him. Albert holds a .500 average and a pair of solo home runs against the Mets’ lefty. The middle infield for the Cardinals, however, may not find much solace in the assignment. Skip Schumaker, Felipe Lopez, Brendan Ryan and Aaron Miles have combined for one solitary hit against Santana in 25 at bats.

The Cardinals need to win this series to show that they are closer related to the team that showed up after the All Star Break than the team that went into it. With Wainwright and Garcia on the mound for the first two, they have that opportunity. The team needs to settle in and perform like it is capable of, or the Mets could find themselves sneaking a win or two out of a very tough series.

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