Remember that match-up Saturday when the Cardinals and Giants trotted out pitchers who had won three of the last five Cy Young Awards? Well, the upcoming series against the Pirates isn't going to be anything like that at all.
Pittsburgh is going to send some truly awful pitchers to the mound. And this is a series in which the Redbirds can't afford not to take advantage. They find themselves 3 1/2 games behind the Reds in the National League Central and two games behind the Phillies for the wild card playoff berth. Meanwhile the Pirates are 41-83 -- which makes them the worst team in the senior circuit by far -- and stand 31 games out of a playoff spot.
The Bucs have lost eight out of their last 10 games and are 22-36 against the sad sack NL Central.
The Cardinals are embarking on a grueling road trip with only three-game series against the Reds at Busch Stadium amongst their next 20 contests. Again, this is a series the Birds can't afford to lose. In fact, winning two out of three would be something of a disappointment because of how bad Pittsburgh is.
The Birds are going to have to be creative and timely with their hitting to score runs. They're already weakened at the plate with the Ryan Ludwick swap. But centerfielder Colby Rasmus has also been on the shelf lately with a strained calf.
The exact opposite of the Saturday Chris Carpenter vs. Tim Lincecum is the Pirates series opener. Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse (1-5, 6.79) takes the hill against Russ Ohlendorf(1-10, 3.90). Lohse is 4-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his career against the Pirates. But, of course, that can all be thrown out the window because of his on-going arm troubles. Lohse has only made one start since his unusual forearm surgery. And he got bombed by the Cubs in that game. Ohlendorf, actually, isn't a bad pitcher. He's got a respectable ERA for the season. In his last three starts, that number drops to 1.74, but he's got an 0-1 record to show for it. Ohlendorf is 1-2 with a 2.77 ERA in his career against the Redbirds.
Adam Wainwright (17-7, 2.06) starts the middle game for the Birds against the Pirates' Paul Maholm(7-12, 4.92). Wainwright has bull rushed his way to the front of the Cy Young derby with a 2-1 record and a 1.17 ERA in his last three games. Meanwhile, Maholm is bottoming out with an 0-3 mark and a 7.80 ERA in his last three starts. Wainwright is 4-2 with a 4.73 ERA against Pittsburgh in his career while Maholm is 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA against St. Louis.
In the finale, Jake Westbrook (1-1, 3.60) starts for the Cardinals against Jeff Karstens(2-10, 4.98). Westbrook has one career start against the Pirates in which he pitched eight innings and allowed one earned run. Karstens allowed 11 hits in 1 1/3 innings his last trip to the rubber. But he's 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his career against the Redbirds.