Thursday, July 30, 2009

Series Preview - Houston

Back on track following a series win over Los Angeles, the Cardinals welcome Houston to town. And by welcome I mean shouting from the ramparts with swords bared. Houston swept the Cardinals 20-22 July.

Mostly Well-Known Tidbit: Houston was a charter member of the Continental League, which never played a game. The Houston franchise was originally nicknamed the 'Colt .45's', selected based on the results of a 'Name that Team' contest. This is why such contests are no longer held. For the 1965 season the team was re-named the Astros, based on their new ballpark (the Astrodome), which was so named based on Houston's role in the space program.

Now, the Colt 45's played in Colt Stadium, the Astros in the Astrodome. Houston baseball fans rejoice this trena didn't continue down the ages (Houston Enrons? Houston Squeezed Oranges?)

Current Snapshot

St Louis: 56-49, 2nd NL Central, 0.5 games behind Chicago. St Louis is 7-2 at home in July. They may have played Houston last week, but this is the Astros first trip into St Louis since the second series of the season (which the Cardinals swept).

Houston: 51-51, 3rd NL Central, 4 games behind. Roy Oswalt left his last start with a strained lower back; initially it was reported he would miss his next start, but now ESPN is reporting he might pitch Sunday after all. Since sweeping the Cardinals they've lost 5 of 7, including back to back blowout losses to the Cubs. Houston's staff has the reputation of being pretty good this season (Oswalt, Wandy, Hampton, etc). Interestingly, however, they lag the Redbirds in both FIP (3.96 to 4.36) and BABIP (.296 to .306). In terms of wOBA, the Cardinals and Astros are virtually the same going into Thursday's games (.321 to .322).

Pitching Matchups

31 July: Brian Moehler (7-6, 5.16) vs Mitchell Boggs (1-0, 3.22). Moehler's the righty who beat Kyle Lohse 3-2 last Monday (20 July). He's appeared in 16 games against the Cardinals (8 starts) and has never lost to St Louis (5-0). He's been tough on the club his last 3 starts (19 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 16 K). He hasn't started a game in St Louis since 2003. On that particular day, he gave up 5 earned and didn't survive the fifth (Brett Tomko started that game for St Louis, one Houston eventually prevailed in 6-5 (12).

Albert Pujols loves - LOVES - hitting against Moehler (9-17, 3 HR). Lugo enjoys the experience (7-19), Molina does not (2-12).

Boggs returns to the Cardinal rotation in place of the exiled Todd Wellemeyer. Fans around the country rejoice, not because they wish Wellemeyer ill (some probably do, I don't), but because it's been clear for a while Wellemeyer doesn't have it as a starter at the moment.

Boggs has appeared against the Astros only once, on the 64th anniversary of D-Day. He faced 7 hitters, and gave up a HR to Geoff Blum.

1 August: Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.65) vs Carpenter. Rodriguez is having the finest year of his career. His ERA this season is over 2 runs lower than his career mark, yet all his other numbers are right in line with his career norms. Whatever. He's good this year.

Wandy went 7 on 21 July in beating the Cardinals 10-1. Well, actually Todd Wellemeyer got clobbered that night, but Rodriguez was pretty good. Oh, was that final 11-6? None of those other runs mattered. Wandy did pitch in Houston's first turn through St Louis, losing to Kyle Lohse 3-0 on 12 April.

Skip Schumaker is 3-9 off Wandy, and with that mark is the only starter hitting over .300 against him. AP is a pedestrian 3-23 against him. Mark DeRosa and Matt Holliday have reached the seats.

I'm running out of superlatives for Carpenter. He's fourth in the league in ERA. His last start against Houston in St Louis was 2006; he threw a 6 hit shutout and won 7-0. He's 5-3 in his career against Houston. He's handled the current Astros lineup pretty well, although Pudge is hitting .357 and El Cubbayo has homered off him.

2 August: David "Bud" Norris (no record) vs TBD (Wainwright's turn)? Norris is scheduled to make his starter debut Sunday in Oswalt's spot. Norris was Houston's 6th round pick in 2006 out of Cal Poly 'san luiz obeezbo' (or as the missus calls it, the REAL Cal Poly). Norris is unique amongst pitchers, in that he went to an Engineering school and can probably do complicated math in his head. He was Houston's #7 ranked prospect in 2008 and #2 in 2009. He's right-handed. He appeared in the 29 July blowout loss to Chicago, his actual Major League Debut.

We'll go with Adam for the series finale; he's 6-0 career against Houston, and earned his first win this year by beating them on 11 April at home. Hunter Pence and Kaz Matsui have homered off him, but everyone else on the club is reporting a fluke injury to not have to step in and face him.

Prognosis/Projection We owe these guys, and need to stay with Chicago (headed to Florida for 3 games). It's hard to predict Cards/Astros series. St Louis should win the finale, assuming Wainwright pitches and Oswalt doesn't. Let's say Carpenter handles Wandy, but Moehler wins over Boggs. Go with 2 of 3.

Go Cards!

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