Cheap Seats

Series Preview: Cardinals @ Padres

The Cardinals head to San Diego to take on the Padres in an early season battle of first place clubs.

The Birds won five out of seven on their most recent homestand while the Padres just took two of three games in an interleague road trip to Seattle as they tried to reverse a trend of losing six of their last 10 games. The Friars are 12-9 at Petco Park while the Cardinals are 11-11 this season on the road.

Albert Pujols has seen his batting average dwindle down to .304, a figure some players would kill for. But, for the Cardinals superstar, May 2010 has been the worst month of his career since July of his rookie season in 2001. He's struggling to hit .250 and popping up at alarming rate. That probably contributed to Albert's surly disposition, contributing to his bat and helmet throwing fit Friday night when Ryan Ludwick got thrown out stealing when he was at the plate.

Former Cardinals shortstop David Eckstein leads San Diego in the batting average department with a .310 mark. Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres' perpetual trade target, is hitting .284 with nine homers and 27 RBIs. The Padres are a throwback team to the age of stolen bases with 52 bags swiped in 57 tries so far this season. Will Venable has 12 swipes in 13 tries, Chase Headley has nine in 10 tries and Tony Gwynn Jr. has eight in 10 tries. But San Diego's real strength is its pitching staff.

Adam Wainwright (6-2, 2.49) will take on Jon Garland(4-2, 2.38) in the opener Tuesday.  Garland doesn't strike out many and was largely thought to be fading over the last couple of seasons without a season ERA below 4.00 since 2005. But he's found the perfect place to pitch in spacious, hitter friendly Petco. He had a hard time his last start May 19 vs. the Dodgers. He gave up nine hits and four earned runs in five laborious innings in Los Angeles. Wainwright held the Marlins to six hits and two runs over seven innings in his last start. He had eight strikeouts and three walks. Wainwright has never started a game at Petco.

Cardinals rookie Jaime Garcia (4-2, 1.28) will face Kevin Correia (4-4, 4.57) in the middle game.

Faced with Brad Penny and likely Kyle Lohse on the disabled list, the Cardinals haven't announced their starter for the finale, although it will likely be P.J. Walters. The Padres are expected to send lefty Wade LeBlanc (2-2, 2.32) to the hill.  LeBlanc got bombed to the tune of eight earned runs in three innings his last start against the Marines, so it stands to reason the Redbirds will think he is the second coming of Walter Johnson. Or at least Scott Kazmir.