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Series Preview: Cardinals @ Nationals

There's only one way to slice and dice it: The Cardinals need to win as many games as possible. And the only way to make up for not winning the series in Pittsburgh is a sweep ofWashington. And that will be a tough task in a four-game set. But the Birds need to make a bold move in the standings.





I don't care who's hurt, who's tired or who's slumping. Figure it out boys. The time for excuses is over.





The Nationals will send three pitchers with a combined 16-21 record to the hill against St. Louis. One of them, Ryan Zimmerman, is coming back from Tommy John surgery and is making his first appearance of the season. Meanwhile, the Cardinals starters are a combined 42-23 -- and that includes Kyle Lohse's dreadful 2-5 mark.





Albert Pujols is red hot these days, and just one homer away from hitting the 400th long fly of his career. It's time some of the hangers on get with the program and collect a hit or two. I'm looking at you Felipe Lopez... And for the rest of the Cardinals "hitters" how about we rediscover that patient approach that worked so well in the Cincinnati series? And how about not trying to swing for the fences every time at the plate? It's a simple game: get on, get 'em over and get 'em in.





In the opener, Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter (14-4, 2.88) Faces Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 0.00). Come on. This shouldn't even be a contest. If the Cardinals can't back up Carpenter with some runs against a guy who is trying to regain his feel for pitching, then they have managed to find a new low even lower than losing two of three to Pittsburgh when their playoff life is on the line.





Jaime Garcia
(11-6, 2.42) faces Scott Olsen (3-6, 5.21) in the second game. Olsen is 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA in his last three starts. He's 1-4 with a 6.10 ERA against the Cardinals in his career. Garcia is coming off the game of his young life, am 89-pitch complete game shutout against the Astros.





In the third contest, Kyle Lohse (2-5, 6.47) faces Orlando Hernandez (8-9, 3.36). Lohse looked much better in his second start after forearm surgery. It's almost unfair to post his cumulative record because he's basically started over from scratch. Presuming he is back to being his old, pre-injury self, Lohse should be expected to pitch pretty well against the Nats. He's 3-1 with a 4.65 ERA against Washington. El Duque started the season as hot as a pistol. But he's 0-2 with an 6.11 ERA. He's 5-6 with a 4.50 ERA in his career against the Cardinals.





Adam Wainwright (17-8, 2.18) starts the finale against John Lannan (5-6, 5.23). Wainwright was something of a hard luck loser his last time out. He was beating Pittsburgh 2-0 through five when a fly ball went in and out of centerfielder Jon Jay's glove for three bags to spark a two-run inning. He was out of gas later in the game when the Pirates scored two more. And the offense was helpless to do anything to right the situation. He's got a 3.00 ERA in his last three starts, but has two losses to show for it. Lannan is 0-2 with a 2.70 ERA against the Cardinals over the course of his career.









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