West Coast Swing

Well on the bright side, the Cardinals won’t face Tim Lincecum this trip.

After dropping 4 of 6 at home to start the season, to the expected lowly Padres and the perennially lowly Pirates, St Louis swings west for 9 games. The Left Coast has not been particularly kind or unkind to the Cardinals since Albert Pujols started pummeling baseballs on their behalf.

Of the three cities they will visit – San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles – only the Giants hold a winning record over them at home. St Louis is 13-17 in the City by the Bay since the start of the 2001 season. In contrast, they are 19-16 in the Desert and 16-14 in the City of Our Lady Queen of the Angels (yes the official name of that hamlet is El Pubelo de la Reina de Los Angeles). Most of those wins came in the early part of the past decade. Since their 2006 World Championship, the Cardinals are 6-9 in Arizona, 5-7 in Los Angeles, and 4-8 in San Francisco.

With that recent trend in mind do not expect the Cardinals Opening Week woes to be cured soon. St Louis has yet to score more than 3 runs in any game this season, and San Francisco’s pitching staff is one of the best in the game. St Louis projects to face Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito. Sanchez won his only start against the Cardinals at home (in 2009), Cain and Zito are each 1-2 lifetime at SBC Park versus St Louis. If the Cardinals were firing on all cylinders, those matchups might be encouraging.

In Arizona they project to face Barry Enright, Armando Galarraga, and Ian Kennedy. Arizona will probably not compete for a playoff spot in 2011 but their team, especially their rotation, is intriguing and bodes of future success. Enright, Galarraga, and Kennedy epitomize that bright future. Enright was a mid-season call-up and posted a 109 ERA+ in 17 starts. He beat the Cardinals in his major league debut. Galarraga is the former Detroit Tiger pitcher who famously almost threw a perfect game last year. He started one game 3 years ago against St Louis and did not figure in the decision. Kennedy is a former New York Yankee who came to Arizona as part of the Curtis Granderson trade. He has never faced the Cardinals.

It is a little early to project the Dodger rotation for their series with St Louis, but it could be Kuroda, Kershaw, and Billingsley if (a) the Dodger rotation stays as is, and (b) they throw their #5 starter on Monday 11 April, whomever that will be. The Cardinals would see Los Angeles’ two top pitchers in that series.

The Cardinals have sputtered out of the gate, but it is unreasonable to expect this team to play .333 ball the entire year. There is just too much talent on the roster. St Louis will break out of it. Given their recent troubles on the west coast, it may not be during the next nine games.

Mike Metzger blogs about the Cardinals at Stan Musial’s Stance.

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