It's high time for the Cardinals to drop the excuses and start playing baseball to the quality of which they are capable.
They head to Houston to play the lowly 35-51 Astros and nothing short of a sweep is satisfactory. They managed to choke up three games to the mediocre Rockies -- two of them in which they led by five runs or more at some point in the game... So the only way to salvage this road trip -- and the Cardinals' tattered pride -- is to get some payback against Houston.
Isn't it time for the Redbirds to get a little bit angry? They have been embarassed and humiliated over the course of the last couple of weeks, losing to teams they had no business losing against. They're being outhustled, outpitched and outhit by the Reds, for crying out loud. How long can they just watch the neighbors stroll into their house and steal the silverware without doing something about it?
If this is a good team, it's time to prove it by getting hot before the All-Star break and serving notice that they will not be pushed around.
Which leads me to the pitching matchups:
In the opener, one of the top three candidates in the National League for the Cy Young Award takes the hill for the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright (12-5, 2.24). The Astros are starting a hunk of refuse named Bud Norris (2-5, 5.98.) Please note Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus, Bud Norris is sitting somewhere in Houston right now laughing at you. He can't wait to stand on the mound and face you because he can see you swinging at bad pitches and getting yourself out in his mind... In his two pathetic seasons in Major League Baseball he's 8-8 with a 5.25 ERA. But HALF of his major league victories have come against St. Louis. He's 4-0 with a 0.35 ERA when he takes to the mound against the Cardinals and wins 1/3 of the time when he faces anyone else. What are you prepared to do about it? If the Birds have any hope of picking themselves up and dusting themselves off, they simply must destroy Bud Norris and prove that they give a rat's you know what about winning some freaking ballgames.
Not only do the Cardinals need to win the opener on principle, they need to win it because the fill in starters are pitching in games two and three in the band box the Astros call home.
Jeff Suppan (0-4, 6.44), has been pretty terrible over the course of his career against Houston with a 5.87 lifetime ERA. But let's not forget that Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Ken Caminiti don't play here anymore. He faces Brett Myers (5-6, 3.57). Myers is 5-3 lifetime against the Redbirds, but he hasn't exactly been dominant with a 4.90 ERA. Albert Pujols has been held to a .200 batting average in his career against Myers. But Matt Holliday smokes him to the tune of a .600 lifetime mark. Skip Schumaker hits .462 against the Astros righty and Aaron Miles has a .417 batting mark against him.
In the finale, the Cardinals send Blake Hawksworth (2-5, 4.88) to the hill against Wandy Rodriguez. Hawksworth is 1-1 with a 3.38 in his last three starts -- but could be 3-0 with any sort of help at all from the offense ... or the defense for that matter. The Cardinals typically kill Rodriguez who has a 4-10 lifetime mark against them with a 4.29 ERA. But Rodriguez has been hot of late, winning his last three starts with a 0.90 ERA in that span.
Bottom line is that things don't look good on paper for this series. But I have had it with paper. On paper, the Cardinals should be seven or eight games out front of the pack in the National League Central. So, let's forget about the paper and play some decent baseball.