Thursday, July 09, 2009

Series Preview - Cubs

The last series before the Break takes the Cardinals to the Obnoxious Confines for a four-game-in-three-day set with the Cubs. As with Milwaukee, this is their second trip into Chicago, although their first trip here didn’t go as well; they lost 2 of 3 in that April series. Mostly Well-Known Tidbit: Carlos Zambrano and Milton Bradley are crazy.

Current Snapshot:

St Louis: 47-40, 1st place NL Central. Have won 4 of 6 on this trip.

Chicago: 41-41, 3rd place NL Central, 3.5 back. I can’t believe they’ve played 5 fewer games than the Cardinals. Some of that is due to rainouts, but most of it has to be the scarcity of off-days St Louis got through the first 3 months of the season. Chicago just dropped 2 of 3 to Atlanta, but they’ve won 4 of 7 on this homestand.

Pitching Matchups:

10 July – Carpenter vs Rich Harden. Harden got clobbered on the Nation’s Birthday, retiring just 6 Brewers while allowing 7 runs and losing 11-2. That was the shortest start of his career. His next worst start (in which he didn’t leave the game due to injury) was 21 Aug 03; he followed that with a 5 inning no decision in which he gave up only 1 run. Hopefully he’ll do worse tomorrow. Harden’s 2-1 career vs St Louis, but he’s never faced them at Wrigley. He’s also never opposed Carpenter.

Current Cardinals are hitting .158 combined against him, paced by Ankiel’s 1-3 (the one hit was a HR).

Carp beat Cincinnati 10-1 on 5 July, throwing 7 sharp and striking out 5. The win snapped a personal 2 game losing streak. He beat Chicago 2-1 on 20 May in St Louis. In his career he’s 8-3 in 15 starts against them; he’s made 9 of those starts at Wrigley, and he’s 5-2 there. His last start in Chicago was August of last year (loss); his last win was almost exactly 2 years before.

Current Cubs are hitting .322 against him; Soriano (12-31, 2 HR) and D. Lee (13-40) lead the position hitters.

11 July – Thompson vs Ted Lilly. Although the Cardinals beat him 3-0 on 19 May in St Louis, Lilly has won 6 of his 12 starts against the club (3 losses and 3 ND make up the rest). He’s been somewhat erratic this season, but he won his last start against Milwaukee and historically he’s pitched very well at Wrigley (winning at a .636 clip). Cardinals are hitting .197 combined against him, which shouldn’t surprise anyone (Lilly being left-handed and all). Stavinoha has 1 hit in three AB against him, but AP has had the most success (9-31, 2 HR).

If Brad Thompson hopes to hold on to his rotation spot, this would be a good time for a statement start. Most likely it will be his last otherwise (and might be his last anyway). Brad has lost his last 3 starts and is getting scorched. He’s also given up at least a HR in four straight games. He’s never started against the Cubs and is 0-1 lifetime in 15 games.

Derrick Lee, who is on fire right now, is also hitting .500 against Thompson. You can bet he has Saturday circled on his calendar with happy smiles and stars around the circle.

12 July Game 1– Lohse vs Randy ‘I’m not Kip’ Wells. In some ways Wells is the Cubs hottest pitcher. He’s won 4 straight and is allowing just over 2 runs a game. He strikes out a lot of batters, although he’s prone to the long ball (3 in his last 4 games). He’s thrown one scoreless inning career vs the Cardinals on 21 Sept of last year, retiring Schumaker, walking Ludwick, and getting Pujols to hit into a double play.

Kyle Lohse makes his first start since June 3. I like the thought process here, in that Lohse will start the day game and not the nationally televised night tilt against Zambrano. He faced the Cubs on 18 April, not figuring in the decision of a game the Cardinals lost 7-5. Based on the 5 week layoff, any trend analysis is a waste of time, so I’ll just say he’s 1-2 lifetime against the Cubs, but that lone win was on the corner of Clark and Addison (2004).

Current Cubs are hitting .371 against him. I won’t depress you with the details, but Ryan Theriot and Aramis Ramirez are hitting over .500 each.

12 July Game 2 – Wainwright vs Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano has not pitched well against the Cardinals recently, giving up at least 7 runs in each of his last 3 starts. This is refreshing, since he went almost 3 years (from 20 Apr 05 to 4 July 08) without losing to them. Zambrano faced the Cardinals on 17 Apr; he gave up 7 ER in 7 innings, but didn’t get the loss (in fact the Cubs won that game). He hasn’t won a game since 5 June (4 ND and 2 losses in the interim).

Ryan Ludwick loves hitting against him (6-8, 2 HR), and Pujols loves homering off him (5 in 66 plate appearances).

Wainwright has won 6 of his last 10 starts, and pitched well enough to win his 1 July start against San Francisco (ND). With apologies to Chris Carpenter, he is the Cardinal Ace right now. Adam has already faced the Cubs 3 times this year; the team has won all 3 (and he got credit for 2 of those wins). He’s faced the Cubs more than any other team in baseball, and is 3-3 against them; he’s 2-0 at Wrigley, although he hasn’t pitched particularly well there historically based on his 6.14 ERA. Cubs are hitting .269 against him, with Ramirez again leading the way (.400).

Prognosis. St Louis delivered the statement hoped for at Miller Park, picking up ground on Milwaukee. The Cubs currently border on dysfunctional, between Bradley, Soriano’s pouting about being benched, Fukudome’s second consecutive summer disappearing act at the plate, and their starting pitching woes. It won’t take much of a nudge to push this club over the cliff and psychologically out of the race. Based on the matchups, a split would be more than acceptable, but to get that nudge, 3 of four will probably be required.

Stay hot, fellas.

Go Cards!

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