Series Preview – Cardinals and Rockies
St Louis will play its last series of the 2010 season this weekend against the Colorado Rockies. Both teams were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday night.
For both teams, their seasons are similar. Early on it looked like Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez was a lock for the Cy Young, and would make a serious run at 30 victories, especially after opening the season 15-1. He’s 4-7 since. Carlos Gonzalez has been hyped as a potential MVP Candidate, and made a run at the Triple Crown, despite some serious difference in his home and road productivity (.386/.431/.749 home; .293/.327/.459 road). Troy Tulowitzki has had a memorable September (15 HR, 40 RBI). And the Rockies put together another late season surge, winning 13 of 15 to start September and climb within a game of the NL West lead.
St Louis? They have a Cy Young Candidate too in Adam Wainwright and perennial MVP candidate in Albert Pujols. The club got a searingly hot July from Jon Jay,and had one final hot streak in August, when they a swept Cincinnati to take over first place.
Just when both teams seemed ready to pull away and take the division, they met their Waterloos on the road. St Louis’ infamous 2-8 mid-August road trip through Pittsburgh, Washington, and Houston, right after that series sweep, doomed them. Colorado dropped 4 straight on the road in mid-September following the 13-2 stretch, including a devastating sweep in Arizona, then lost 2 of 3 at home last weekend to the Giants.
With nothing left to play for, the teams are making plans for next year. St Louis has already shut down Jamie Garcia for the season. Wainwright’s season is now over thanks to a strained right forearm muscle. Yadier Molina is already at home resting his knees. The last few games have seen an infusion of youth in the Cardinal lineup. Take last night, where Pujols and Matt Holliday were the only position players at least 30 years old.
- Tyler Greene
- Daniel Descalso
- Allen Craig
- Cody Rasmus
- Matt Pagnozzi
- Brendan Ryan
Colorado will probably do something similar in their lineup, playing Chris Nelson more at second, possibly starting Jonathan Hererra a lot at third, perhaps giving Chris Iannetta the lion’s share of games behind the plate the rest of the way. Figure this series will have a Spring Training feel to it out in the field as the clubs move on to 2011.
The projected pitching match ups,however, include the regular suspects:
Thursday 30 Sept – Jason Hammel vs Jake Westbrook. Hammel has not started against the Cardinals in his career. Westbrook will have a final opportunity to impress the Cardinal Front Office heading into the off-season. He probably does not need to do anything more; he has been fantastic in his 2 months with the Cardinals. I for one would like to see him return for 2011, if the price is right.
Friday 1 Oct – Jorge De La Rosa vs Chris Carpenter. De La Rosa has largely been the same pitcher this season (ERA+ 109) as last (ERA+ 107) when he won 16 games. More data on how fickle the win is. He also spent an extended amount of time on the DL in 2010. He has won his last 3 starts against the Cardinals. Carpenter has already started 34 games this season, the third time in his career he’s done so. With 226 IP on a 35-year old repaired arm, I would not be surprised if he missed this start. St Louis has lost his last 2 starts against the Rockies.
Saturday 2 Oct – Jimenez vs Kyle Lohse. Jimenez will make this start (barring an heretofore unreported injury), and it will be his third try to win his 20th game. No Colorado Rockie has ever won 20 games in a season. No Rockie pitcher had ever won 18 games until now. Jimenez beat the Cardinals in July, and is 2-2 career against them. Lohse continues trying to regain his form following his mid-season arm surgery. He has struggled since returning to the rotation in August (in 37.2 IP, 7 HR allowed, 13 BB, 2.069 WHIP). Lohse is due a $3 million raise in 2011, and all his money is guaranteed. He has not beaten Colorado as a Cardinal.
Sunday 3 Oct – Jeff Francis vs Jeff Suppan. It’s been a tough year for Francis as he tries to return from major arm surgery. He missed the first 6 weeks of the season while finishing his rehab, then missed an additional month in August/September. Interestingly, Colorado has only lost one game to the Cardinals when Francis starts – and that was way back in 2006. A bittersweet season will end with a bittersweet start for Jeff Suppan. This will probably be his last start as a Cardinal (his contract includes a 2011 Option for $12.75 million but has a $2 million buyout). St Louis has lost 10 of his 14 starts. I do not envision him returning.
At 35 this might be his last major league start ever. He’s been hit around a little bit (OPS against of .831), and although his ERA is better by 3 runs as a Cardinal his xFIP is almost identical to what it was in Milwaukee (5.04 before, 5.23 now). If this is the end of the line for Soup, thanks for the memories (especially 2006 NLCS Game 7) and best of luck in your future.
With that we will close the book on the 2010 season. Oh, what might have been for both franchises.
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UPDATE to the post. You know by now St Louis flipped Carpenter and Westbrook. Westbrook goes tonight. Also, according to ESPN, Esmil Rogers will start Sunday for Colorado in place of Jeff Francis.
Further updates as events warrant. I will not be surprised if the pitching matchups change again.