The St. Louis Cardinals are going to have their work cut out for them Friday when they begin a road series against their former landlords, the Baltimore Orioles.
Back in the days when they shared Sportsmans Park and they were called the St. Louis Browns, the Redbirds' opponents were thought of the weak sisters of the American League. But that's certainly not the case this year as the O's have stormed out to the front of their division, out-pacing the big-spending New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
Baltimore has won seven of its last 10 games to improve its record to 16 games over .500 while the Cardinals have struggled all season to reach the 10 games over mark.
On the bright side, for whatever reason, the Orioles have struggled at home where they are 30-25 compared to 35-24 away from Camden Yards. But the Cardinals haven't exactly been road warriors this year with a 28-27 mark on the road compared to a 33-25 mark at Busch Stadium.
The biggest potential advantage the Cardinals have over Baltimore this weekend is starting pitching. St. Louis' two big trade deadline acquisitions, former Cleveland Indians ace Justin Masterson and accomplished former Boston Red Sox pitcher John Lackey will start two of the three games. Lance Lynn (11-8, 2.89) has been the Redbirds' hottest pitcher lately and he'll start the other contest. The Orioles will start Chris Tillman (8-3, 3.78) in game one. But they're forced to rely on Ubaldo Jimenez (3-8 4.52) in game two and former thorn in St. Louis' side, Bud Norris, in game three.
Norris, who used to have the Cardinals' number when he was with the Houston Astros, is 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA. It seemed that the Birds had broken his spell over them toward the end of his Houston tenure. Hopefully, that trend will continue this weekend. He's 8-6 with a 3.23 ERA in his career against St. Louis.
While Baltimore doesn't hit for a high batting average they, like the Orioles of the Earl Weaver era, are capable of scoring runs in bunches via the home run. Nelson Cruz has 29 homers from the designated hitter position, centerfielder Adam Jones has 21 and first baseman Chris Davis has 19 -- despite his .198 batting average.
The Cardinals' top home run hitter is shortstop Jhonny Peralta with 15. Matt Adams and Matt Holliday are tied for second with 12.
In 1944 the Cardinals and former Browns squared off in the "Streetcar" World Series, the only Fall Classic to feature two teams from St. Louis. The two clubs are currently in the playoff picture of their respective leagues, potentially setting them up for a rematch on the 70th anniversary of their previous World Series matchup.