It's not overstating the obvious to say that the Cardinals need to make a statement in their weekend series against the Giants.
A sweep would leave the Redbirds at 4-5 on their ill-fated current homestand. So this isn't about being greedy. It's about trying to avert disaster and limit the damage to a setback. Since their sweep of the Reds a week and a half ago, the Cardinals have gone 1-4 against the lowly Cubs and the sub par Brewers, going from first place to 3 1/2 games out in the blink of an eye.
The Cardinals are actually closer to the wild card lead now (2 1/2 games) than they are to the National League Central lead (3 1/2 games). The Giants and Phillies are ahead of them in the wild card. So, if the Birds think that they're going to make a run at the playoffs, the simply have to win the series against San Fran.
On the plus side, the Birds' biggest problem these days is scoring runs, and the Giants don't exactly light up the scoreboard, either. With the addition of newly-acquired third sacker Pedro Feliz, the Cardinals probably aren't going to do their offense any favors -- Feliz is hitting just .221. But at least he's pretty good at catching the ball. So maybe the mistakes at the hot corner that led to two of the St. Louis losses on the current homestand won't be a problem anymore.
The Cardinals are 1-2 against the Giants this season. In the only series in which the teams met, a total of nine runs were scored, six by San Francicso and three by the Redbirds.
Jake Westbrook (1-0, 3.32) takes the hill Friday for St. Louis. He's facing Madison Bumgarner (4-4, 3.27) in a matchup of pretty good hurlers. Westbrook hasn't faced many Giants starters as a career American Leaguer before being traded to the Cardinals a couple of weeks ago. Only fellow former junior circuit player Aubrey Huff, who hits .375 against Westbrook and Aaron Rowland -- .333 against him -- have much familiarity with the Birds' starter. Bumgarnder is facing the Cardinals for the first time. He's 0-1 with a 4.86 ERA in his last three starts.
The Cardinals haven't announced their starter for Saturday, but it's Chris Carpenter's turn in the rotation. Tim Lincecum (11-7, 3.62) is scheduled to start for the Giants.
Neither team has announced it's starters yet for game three. But Kyle Lohse, who was pummeled in his most recent start against the Cubs, is in line for the turn.
I'd try to make a prediction about how the matchups will shake out. But the Cardinals have had two days off this week. That flexibility, coupled with a shaky start from Carpenter last time out, a crummy start from Lohse and Jeff Suppan's ability to come off the disabled list make it a guessing game at best.