Series Preview – Cardinals at Chicago Cubs
St Louis – 78-74, 2nd place NL Central, 7.5 games behind Cincinnati. The Cardinals trail Atlanta by 7.5 games in the Wild Card race. Thursday morning ESPN put the team’s odds of making the playoffs at 0.1%. Lloyd Christmas might say there’s a chance, but in reality they should be eliminated from playoff contention this weekend regardless of how these three games play out.
Chicago – 69-82, 5th place NL Central. The Cubs have been eliminated from playoff contention. Even so they are playing their best baseball right now. Chicago is the hottest team in the National League outside of Philadelphia (who have won 10 straight), winning 9 of their last 11 games headed into Thursday’s action.
Probable Pitching Matchups
I have to emphasize the word ‘probable’ here. For four of my last 5 series previews, the pitching match-ups have changed after the post went final. Initially I found this frustrating, now it’s just amusing. At any rate, according to ESPN here are the pairings for this weekend.
Friday 24 Sept – Adam Wainwright vs Tom Gorzelanny. Wainwright will try to be the first Cardinal starter to win 20 games since Chris Carpenter did it during his 2005 Cy Young campaign. In the last 25 years, only 5 Cardinal starters have won 20 games (John Tudor/Joaquin Andujar, 1985; Darryl Kile, 2000; Matt Morris, 2001; Carpenter). Wainwright might have, at most, 3 shots at 20 before the season ends (and that’s only if the Cardinals start him on short rest the last game of the season). Adam is 1-1 against the Cubs this season (2 starts). Tom Gorzelanny has not started a game in St Louis since 2008, when he was a Pirate. He’s pitched well this season (ERA+ 112) despite his sub-.500 record, again proving what little value wins have in evaluating pitching performance today.
Saturday 25 Sept – Chris Carpenter vs Casey Coleman. Carpenter has made 28 or more starts 5 times as a Cardinal, and he’s logged at least 15 wins in all of those seasons, including this one. In today’s game, there are two ways you get to that total – lots of run support, or you are a very durable pitcher. Carpenter has already thrown the second-most innings in a season of his career in 2010 (222.0), second only to the 2005 season (241.2). A great pitcher having another fine season. At 35, he may not have many of these seasons left, but he’s been an absolute stud for the Cardinals over his career. Coleman made his major league debut in August. He has never started against St Louis, but has logged 2 innings in relief against them. This will be his seventh career start. Coleman was a 15th round selection in 2008.
Sunday 26 Sept – Jake Westbrook vs Carlos Zambrano. Westbrook’s 21 Sept start against Pittsburgh marked the first time he had given up more than 4 runs as a Cardinal. It was also the first time he did not complete 6 innings since being traded. There is an argument to be made regarding the trade that brought him to St Louis, and whether the Cardinals gave up too much to get him; but be that as it may, Jake Westbrook has certainly held up his end of the bargain, giving the Cardinals quality innings during their stretch run. Westbrook recently expressed interest in staying a Cardinal for 2011. If the Cardinals can afford him after the Pujols signing, that would be outstanding. Carlos Zambrano has had a Jekyll and Hyde season, but since returning to the rotation for the third time 9 August he has been every bit as dominant as he had ever been. Zambrano has won 6 straight decisions, and over that 57 inning stretch his ERA is 1.42 and his OPS against is .550. He’s beaten the Cardinals twice during that stretch.
With no playoffs in 2010, there is not much left to play for. However, some Cardinals could still reach a couple of statistical milestones numbers as the season finishes out, perhaps during this series.
- Matt Holliday is 1 RBI away from 100 for the season. He drove in 109 last year combined with Oakland and St Louis.
- Ryan Franklin needs 5 saves to reach 30 for the second consecutive season. Granted, that won’t happen in this series; this is more of a ‘perhaps by the end of the season’ item. Of course, the Cardinals will have to snap out of their nosedive in order for that to happen.
- We already discussed Adam Wainwright and win #20.
- Albert Pujols hit his 40th (and 41st) HR yesterday at Pittsburgh. 2010 is the sixth season of his career he’s hit 40+ HR. This marks his first back-to-back seasons with 40 or more since he did it 4 years in a row (2003-2006)
At this point, the Cardinals are playing out the string. That said, they have played well at Wrigley this season, and will run their 3 best veteran pitchers out there this weekend. Although I doubt Westbrook will win Sunday based on how well Zambrano’s currently pitching, the Cardinals should win Saturday’s game, and Wainwright has a lot of motivation to win on Friday. So I will cross my fingers they can win 2 of these games.
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