Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals at Washington Nationals

St. Louis Cardinals (68-56, 27-33 away) at Washington Nationals (53-74, 31-30 home)

I wish I could tell you what team is going to show up in D.C. this evening, but I honestly do not know. Since the Cincinnati sweep, things have been up and down for this Jekyll and Hyde team. The Cubs and Brewers handled us, and then we manged to win two of three against the playoff contending Giants. Now we’re coming off a three-game set in Pittsburgh where we crushed the Pirates in game one, then bowed down to them in games two and three.

At the beginning of this road-trip I said that the Cardinals do not deserve to make it to the playoffs if they cannot win at least seven or eight games on this 11 game road swing that includes series with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, and Houston Astros. If the Redbirds can’t pull together a 7-4 road-trip against those three teams, then how on earth can we expect our club to do anything in the postseason? So far, we are 1-2. Do you really think this team can beat Atlanta, Philadelphia, or San Diego on the road in the NLDS if we can’t beat three of the worst teams in the MLB? Call me crazy.

While the Cardinals may hold the league’s second best home record, they are below .500 on the road. However, there is good news. St. Louis is 15-9 against Eastern division teams (their best record against any division).

The Cards are 2-0 against the Nats in 2010. Both games were won by good starts by both Kyle Lohse and Chris Carpenter. Carp is scheduled to pitch tonight, while Kyle takes the mound on Saturday.

Game One – Thursday, August 26 – 6:05 CST
Jordan Zimmerman (2010 debut) vs. Chris Carpenter (14-4, 2.88 ERA)

I’m not going to lie, I am a little disappointed that Strasburg is not going to be pitching tonight just because I wanted to watch the kid go up against my team, but I am also very glad he is missing this start. There is no doubt about it, the kid has electric stuff, and I am afraid of what he could do to the Cardinals. Instead of Strasburg, another Nationals prospect by the name of Jordan Zimmerman will take the hill later today. This will be Zimmerman’s first Major League start of the 2010 season, as he has been recovering from Tommy John surgery. In ten starts down in the minors this year, the 24-year-old right-hander is 1-2 with a 1.59 ERA and only one walk per nine innings pitched.

Chris Carpenter, on the other hand, seems to be extremely healthy. It sure does feel good to say that! In fact, Carp leads the National League in games started. I’ve said in the past, when Carpenter is healthy, there aren’t many better. Ladies and gentlemen, he’s healthy. In 11 starts against the Nats, Carp is 6-1 with a 3.30 ERA 62 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 77 innings pitched. Granted I was never great at math, but that seems to be a 6.20 SO/BB ratio. In any league, at any level, that is pretty darn good.

Game Two – Friday, August 27 – 6:05 CST
Scott Olsen (3-6, 5.21 ERA) vs. Jaime Garcia (11-6, 2.42 ERA)

As a Washington National, in his career, Scott Olsen is 5-10 with a 5.61 ERA in 24 starts. Let’s just say Olsen has ran through his share of rough patches, and this year is no different. He is allowing an average of 10.4 H/9 and over one home run per game. The Cardinals as a team have done great against Olsen in the past (.321 batting average in 121 PA), and Matt Holliday’s 1.782 OPS is awfully scary.

The Cards score another favorable pitching matchup as they send Jaime Garcia to the mound coming of the best start of his career. His 89-pitch complete game shutout was one of the best Cardinal starts of the season, and may end up propelling Jaime to a Rookie of the Year award.

Game Three – Saturday, August 28 – 6:05 CST
Livan Hernandez (8-9, 3.36 ERA) vs. Kyle Lohse (2-5, 6.47 ERA)

Ah, Livan Hernandez. You don’t have a choice but to love the guy. He just won’t go away. Just when everybody thought his career was over, Livan puts together a year that has potential to be his first sub-4 ERA season since 2005 when he led the league in innings pitched. It’s his fifteenth year in MLB, and 14 1/2 of those were spent in the National League, so it’s not like he is a new face to the Cardinals. Hernandez is 5-7 with a 4.58 ERA against the Cardinals in his long career.

I’m not going to sugar-coat this at all for you. I do not feel good about this start for the Redbirds. Not at all. I’ll give you four reasons:

  1. The Nationals as a team are hitting .315 (46-for-146) against Kyle Lohse.
  2. Five of the nine Nationals position players that have taken at bats with Lohse on the mound have batting averages over .316.
  3. On the road, in his career, Kyle is 39-58 with a 5.22 ERA and a 1.579 WHIP.
  4. When it’s all boiled down, he is Kyle Lohse. Nobody knows what will happen.

Game Four – Sunday, August 29 – 12:35 CST
John Lannan (5-5, 5.13 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.06 ERA)

John Lannan has always been one of those guys that I thought needed a new team. I’ve always seen some serious potential in Lannan, and I’ve always thought he would be able to become a front end of the rotation guy in a new system. But all signs of that John Lannan have disappeared in 2010. He has been just awful. There aren’t many pitchers out there that have more walks than strikeouts. Lannan is one of them. There are not many pitchers out there that give up more than 11 hits per nine innings. Lannan makes that list as well. It just hasn’t been a great year for the guy.

You can say just about the opposite about Adam Wainwright. Before his unusually mediocre start on Tuesday, Adam led the league in wins (17), ERA (2.06), ERA+ (194), and WHIP (0.967). In my opinion, there isn’t a starter in Major League Baseball right now that is as dominating as Waino. He has totaled 27 starts this season, and has pitched seven innings in 18 of those starts. He has only allowed more than three runs four times this season. All the hype was centered around Ubaldo Jimenez for a good portion of the first half, but the Cy Young could very well be a Cardinal. To say it simply, they don’t come much better than Adam Wainwright.

Justin Hulsey covers the Cardinals for i70baseball.com and his blog, Cardinals Front Office, that is also dedicated to Cardinal baseball.You may follow him on Twitter @JayHulsey by clicking here.

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