By Cardinal 70
The Cards have been doing a lot of .500 ball playing lately. They are 5-5 in their last 10, with a pattern of win two, lose one, win one, lose two, win one, lose two, win one. It's a roller-coaster ride after the smooth winning pattern of the first couple of weeks.
They got back on the horse last night with patience and strong pitching. While I wanted to go Hero-wise with Brian Barton, who was 2-4 with a walk and got the scoring started with a two-run double (on the first hit of the game), it's tough to argue with the numbers Joel Pineiro put up last night. Seven innings of one-run ball, four hits, six strikeouts and bonus points for the kick-save out that will on highlight reels for years to come. I think that's the second time this year that Pineiro has done a kick move like that, but the first time it's actually worked. Besides Barton, honorable mention goes to Yadier Molina for three hits, including two doubles, and Albert Pujols for reaching base five times (though once was when he was thrown out going for a double).
Goat-wise, I guess you have to go with Ryan Ludwick for his 0-5 night. He wasn't even able to coax a walk out of Tom Gorzelanny, something that just about everyone was able to do. I really like the patience that the team is showing so far. Especially with the weaker hitters. If they are able to get on base, that just makes the offense that much more potent.
The Cardinals go home and get to match up with the streaking Houston Astros, who have won five in a row. The Cardinals beat them two out of three in Houston earlier in the year, but the Cards will only face one pitcher they saw in that matchup.
That pitcher is Shawn Chacon, who goes tonight against Braden Looper. The Cards were able to beat him last time, 5-3, but historically they've had their troubles against him. Chris Duncan has had success in limited action against him, so you figure to see him out there tonight. Then again, since it's a right hander on the mound, you figure all the lefties will be in the lineup. Which is too bad for Brian Barton, after his strong game, but if Ludwick got benched after hitting home runs in three straight games because a righty was on the mound, Barton has little room to argue.
Looper has done all right against the Astros and hopefully will continue that this evening. He wasn't anything special last time out, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings, but he did get the win. Which is what counts the most, right?
The biggest key to this series will be getting the guys out in front of Lance Berkman. Berkman always seems to kill the Cardinals, so the pitchers are going to have to do their best to limit the damage. To a lesser degree, Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada are also threats, but I personally will always breath easier when Berkman is retired.
And Saturday's matchup should be a lot of fun, with Adam Wainwright against Roy Oswalt. If Oswalt's on his game (something that's eluded him a lot in 2008), that could be a pitcher's duel that ranks right up there with another Saturday afternoon game against the 'Stros.