As the Cardinals venture west to face the Colorado Rockies, we at i70 take our craft public. It is difficult to dismiss the analogies abound.
While the Redbirds will undoubtedly be traveling by plane, the very highway whose name our humble site is borrowed will extend itself the entire way down below. If you have not made the journey by car, let me save you the trouble. It’s as bland a trip as there is within our nation’s borders.
The climb is so subtle that if you didn’t know better you would swear the journey was as level as Italian slate. But make no mistake; your vehicle is battling for its life. It’s an unrelenting, uphill grind.
If this scene doesn’t epitomize the 2010 Cardinals…bland…laborious…a bit dull, but seemingly still battling…it is hard to say what does.
These two teams will find themselves looking across Coors Field at very similar squads tonight. Both are fighting to remain atop their respective division, and both are having only limited, sustained success.
At 45-37, the Cardinals are one win up on the 44-38 Rockies, albeit from within a group that has redefined the dig, “Comedy Central”. Only the Cardinals and Reds have winning records in the NL Central. In the West, the only team without a winning record is the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that Saint Louis snatched a rather unconvincing 2 out of 3 from just last week.
Game 1 will pit stopgap starter Blake Hawksworth (2-5, 5.02 ERA) against Jeff Francis (2-3, 4.67 ERA). The veteran lefty is coming off his worst start of the season, a three-inning effort against San Diego in which he gave up 8 earned runs and 3 walks.
Conversely, the young Hawksworth looks to continue to build upon serviceable starts against the Royals and Brewers. His most recent outing against Milwaukee, one of the league’s most potent lineups, was his best of the year. The bullpen-to-rotation convert went six strong innings and struck out 7, giving up just 3 earned runs.
In Game 2, Jaime Garcia (8-4, 2.10 ERA) will take the second best ERA in baseball against Aaron Cook (3-5, 4.66 ERA). While Cook’s line should be considered average at best, he’s been effective at home, posting a 2.64 ERA.
If Game 3 turns out to be the rubber match, it has potential to be a good one. All-Star Chris Carpenter (9-2, 3.16) will be tapped to spar with Jhoulys Chacin (5-7, 3.59). The rookie has swing-and-miss stuff, as evident in his 12 K’s against the Angels on June 27th. While Carp undoubtedly holds the edge in all facets, the rookie will put an often overaggressive Cardinals’ lineup to the test.
These two I-70 anchor points parallel one another as much in their state of affairs as they do longitude. Look for a series that has the feel of October baseball, as both teams try to prove, as much to themselves as to fans, that they belong in the postseason.