May 7, 2010

Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / May 7, 2010

The suddenly streaking Pirates entertain the division leading St. Louis Cardinals this weekend, with both teams' top pitchers scheduled. The weather is beautiful, what baseball was designed for. Translated for Pittsburgh natives, that's Pens-Capitals with extra mayonnaise.

St. Louis Cardinals - Friday 7:05, Saturday 7:05, Sunday 1:3f5
As everybody expected, the Lou is in first place with an 18-11 record, five games in front of the Pirates. But this is hardly a mismatch with Pittsburgh now owning an 8-4 home record. Both aces go tonight with Chris Carpenter (4-0, 2.84) against Zach Duke (2-3, 6.09). That's a dream matchup of a legitimate Cy Young candidate against a legitimate Cy Duke candidate.

Carpenter is due for a correction while Duke always pitches better at home. I'm going to chalk up the last few games to psychological issues rooted in the Pirates' failure to issue Zach an all-star bobblehead. Just like with Paul Maholm Tuesday, I feel a great game from Duke.

He'll have to do it against a very good Cardinal lineup that features, in addition to Pujols and Holliday, a couple of young players who are off to great starts. If rookie third baseman David Freese (.348/.408/.522) and second year outfielder Colby Rasmus (.301/.427/.627) keep this up the Cardinals are the best team in baseball. Nevertheless, I can't pick against Duke at home. My pick is the Pirates.

What if there were fireworks the night of a Pens game? We'll find out Saturday as early Rookie of the Year candidate Jaime Garcia (3-1, 1.12) goes against Jeff Karstens (0-1, 6.17).

With the pending return of Ross Ohlendorf, this is probably Jeff's last start for a while. I'd like to see him stick around in the long relief role, sending Brian Bass back to Indy.

Garcia is a 23-year-old who returned from Tommy John surgery at the end of last year. He has a hard late-breaking sinker of the type that normally causes the Pirate offense to suck. Nevertheless, I have to favor the Karstens side. He's a threat to pitch a no-hitter every time out. My pick again is the Pirates.

Finally Sunday is Adam Wainwright (4-1, 1.96) against Paul Maholm (2-2, 4.06). Despite my picks, it would be a lie if I said I wasn't worried about the Pirates getting shut out for this entire series. Couldn't Kyle Lohse start this one on short rest? My pick is the Pirates.

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