The Cardinals have their work cut out for them today, with one of the best pitchers in baseball taking the hill against them in a tough road matchup.
Johann Santana (12-8, 2.96) gets the call for the Mets while the Cardinals start the guy who was supposed to be their fifth starter. Fortunately, Joel Pineiro (9-9, 2.84) has been pitching like a top of the rotation guy with a better ERA than the high dollar pitcher he opposes. If he had better run support, Pineiro could be 13-5.
Run support could still be an issue, despite the offensive infusion the Cardinals got with the trade for Matt Holliday. Albert Pujols continues to struggle to the tune of a .226 batting average with two homers since the All-Star Break. The slump has stretched long enough that theories that he injured his elbow in the Home Run Derby are starting to look plausible.
The Mets are facing their own troubles, though. They are still without centerfielder Carlos Beltran, who tortured the Cardinals in the playoffs a few years back with the Astros. Beltran has been out for a month and a half with a bad knee that was described as a bruise. But talk that he would be ready at the end of the All-Star Break didn't become reality and he is still on the shelf two weeks later. Slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado might miss the rest of the season with a hip problem and leadoff man and shortstop Jose Reyes is on the disabled list with a calf problem.
With the way the Birds hit against rookie pitchers, I would prefer to see them face a guy like Santana even though he is unscored upon in three of his last five starts. In the fifth game, it should be noted, he was pummeled for 12 hits and 5 runs in six innings against Houston.
Pineiro has allowed one run or less in three of his last four starts, including a complete game July 9 against the powerful offense of the Brewers.
The Mets are a high dollar team and the games are on the road. But the Cardinals need to be opportunistic and take advantage of an injury riddled team that is mired five games under the .500 mark. It would also be nice if the Birds could break the eight games over barrier that has been their high water mark all year.