On opening day the current Cardinals homestand looked like sets against a pair of pushovers followed by a tough test against the Angels.
But that's why they play the game. The Nationals and Marlins rolled into town in a battle for second place in the National League east. Both were over .500 and riding hot streaks over their previous 10 games. The slumping Cardinals didn't always look good. But they managed to take three of the four games against Washington and Florida. And now the high powered Angels aren't exactly looking so hot. It's time for the Cardinals to prove they are who we think they are and hammer the 20-23 Halos who are presently holding down third place in the weak AL West.
Anaheim (I still refuse to call them Los Angeles of Anaheim) has won it's last two games and six out of its last 10 while the Cardinals -- despite winning three of their last four are only 4-6 in their last 10. St. Louis is 13-7 at Busch Stadium while the Angels are 8-12 on the road.
Torii Hunter And Kendry Morales have paced Anaheim's offense. Hunter leads the Halos in batting average with a .284 mark to Morales' .282. But Morales leads the club in homers with nine to Hunter's seven. On the whole, the Angels pitch pretty well. But closer Brian Fuentes -- who fortunately turned down an offer from St. Louis to pitch for his home town team, has a 5.91 ERA and has been very shaky at the back of the bullpen.
In game one, former Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro (3-4, 3.71) faces off against the guy who replaced him: Brad Penny (3-4, 2.73).
Pineiro has been inconsistent this season, alternately looking like his 2009 self and, well his 2008 self. In his first three starts of the season, Pineiro won twice and lost once while giving up four runs in 20 combined innings. In his last two starts, he threw a four-hit complete game shut out against Oakland and hurled 6 1/3 shutout innings at Tampa. In between, he gave up 17 runs in 15 1/3 innings in three consecutive starts to rack up three straight losses.
Penny has pitched well enough to win in all but one of his outings to get the win and he really should be 5-2 or even 6-1 instead of 3-4. In his last start, Penny gave up 13 hits and seven runs in five innings against Cincinnati. But he's gone seven innings or more in five of his eight starts and hasn't given up more than three runs in any of his previous appearances.
Lefty Scott Kazmir (2-4, 6.51) takes the hill against Kyle Lohse (1-3, 5.11) on Saturday.
Kazmir has lost his last three starts, giving up 14 runs in his last 16 1/3 innings. Walks have been a problem, with nine free passes handed out in those last three starts, more than half a walk per inning pitched. But the 22 hits didn't help either. Kazmir's 0-3 with a 7.59 ERA on the road this year. Lohse has been pretty terrible this season. But he's much better at home than away with a 3.19 ERA at Busch Stadium. He held the Nationals to six hits and two runs in six innings in his last start, although it should probably be noted that Washington's slugging first baseman Adam Dunn was sick with the flu and didn't play. He'll look to build on that success against an Anaheim team that typically needs to string together hits to score runs because it doesn't hit a whole lot of homers. So, it figures to be a decent matchup for him.
Jered Weaver (4-2, 3.40) matches up against St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter (5-1, 2.80) in the Sunday finale. Weaver's most recent start was his worst of the season. He lasted only 4 2/3 innings against the Rangers, giving up nine hits and seven earned runs while surrendering three homers. Carpenter has given up 50 hits in 61 innings this year, striking out 57 while walking 16. he gave up five homers in his first two starts, but only two in the seven starts he has made since then. The Cardinals have won seven of the nine games that Carpenter has started for them.