Cheap Seats

Preview: Cardinals vs. Nationals

So the Cardinals went to Cincinnati and allowed first place to be ripped away from them... At least they're coming home to play the lowly Nationals with a chance to get back on track, right?

Not so fast.

The Nationals aren't exactly the bottom dwellers anymore that they have been in recent seasons. Washington comes to St. Louis is second place in the National League East and has won four of its six games against NL Central foes so far this season. On the bright side, the Nats have lost their last three in a row, so they aren't exactly red hot...

Former Tiger, Marlin, Yankee, Ranger and Astro catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez has found new life in Washington where, at the age of 38 he's hitting .349 and leading both the offense and the pitching staff.

Speaking of the pitching staff... The Nationals send two relative unknowns with terrible numbers to the mound against the Cardinals. So, obviously, the birds are in a lot of trouble.

Craig Stammen (1-1, 5.84) takes the hill against St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse(0-4, 5.68) in the first game of the two-game set. The 26 year old Stammen is 5-8 in his brief career with Washington. He gives up a ton of homers -- 14 last season in just more than 100 innings and has already surrendered four in 37 innings this season -- for pitching in one of baseball's more pitcher friendly parks. He's only made it past the fifth inning in one of his three starts. Lohse has had problems getting ground balls this season -- and that can be bad news on a team with Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn in the lineup. Of course, Dunn is a guy who strikes out a lot. But Lohse isn't a strikeout pitcher.

John Lannan (1-2, 6.51) takes on Chris Carpenter(4-1, 3.06) in the finale. Lannan, 25, is a lefty who will probably give the St. Louis hitters fits. He got pounded his last time out against the Rockies, lasting only 4 2/3 innings after giving up four runs on six hits and four walks.

The Redbirds absolutely need to be patient with Lannan and wait for pitches that are hittable. He's only struck out 13 hitters all season while walking 22 and his numbers fall off dramatically once he hits the 50 pitch mark: He holds opponents to a .248 batting average before pitch 50. Beyond it, they hit .281 off him. On the off chance Lannan gets to 100, hitters cuff him to the tune of .375. He's 0-2 with a 2.62 ERA against the Cardinals.

Carpenter lost last time out to the Astros and Houston first baseman Lance Berkman said he is a different pitcher with diminished velocity and "stuff" since coming back from shoulder surgery last season. Really? His numbers -- 41 hits and 53 innings and 52 strikeouts compared to 16 walks don't look too bad to me. Carpenter has allowed 1.075 walks and hits per inning pitched this season, which is .006 higher than his WHIP in 2005 -- when he won the Cy Young Award.