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Series Preview, Cardinals at San Francisco

It causes a little bit of concern that the Cardinals just finished being waxed by the lowly Padres and Pirates at home ... and now they have to play the defending World Series champion Giants on the road.

But, don't look now, the G-men got off to a clunker of a start, too. They're 2-4 just like the Cardinals.

The good news, I think, is that the Redbirds don't have to face two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum this time around. But I sort of wish they did. It would at least be a little bit more excusable if the Birds were blanked on four hits by a highly decorated pitcher instead of some guy from the Pirates who was 2-12 last season.

There are rumors floating around that St. Louis slugger Matt Holliday could return at some point this weekend to bolster the St. Louis offense. So that gives Cardinals rooters something to look forward to... But the Giants will also regain the use of a valuable player, oddly bearded closer Brian Wilson was activated from the disabled list this week and is available for action.

The Cardinals most expensive off-season signing (to the chagrin of Albert Pujols fans), Jake Westbrook, will take the hill in the opener against San Fran lefty starter Jonathan Sanchez.

Westbrook was beaten around like a pinata in the season's second game against Pittsburgh, acquiring a 16.62 ERA by walking five and giving up six hits in 4 1/2 innings pitched. The pirates hit .352 against him and Westbrook allowed an ugly eight earned runs. Sanchez, meanwhile, was a hard luck loser in his first appearance of the season. He struck out eight Dodgers in 5 2/3 innings but was bitten by two unearned runs in a 4-3 loss on April 1.

Sanchez is 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA in his career against the Cardinals. Westbrook is 0-1 in one start against the Giants in his career with a 4.50 ERA.

In the second game, Cardinals second year lefty Jaime Garcia will take on San Francisco's Matt Cain.

Garcia, who struggled through spring training, was brilliant in his only start so far that counts. He pitched a complete game shutout against the Padres to earn the only victory gained by a Redbirds starter so far this season. He allowed four hits and walked two while wiffing nine. Cain was nearly as good in his first start, hurling six shutout innings against the Dodgers. He struck out three and walked none.

Resurgent Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse will pitch the series finale against star-crossed Giants lefty Barry Zito.

Lohse, who sports a 5.40 ERA after a loss to his Pirates in his first start, pitched bette than the numbers indicate. In his seven innings on the mound, he put six zeroes on the scoreboard. But shoddy defense contributed to four runs denting the plate in the other inning and the punchless Birds offense did nothing to bail him out. Zito, who was rumored to be on the verge of being released in spring training despite the fact that he is still owed a boatload of money by San Francisco, allowed three runs on three hits and two walks in his first start.

Zito is 1-3 with a 3.33 ERA against the Cardinals in his career. He makes me nervous because he's the sort of soft-tossing lefty that typically gives St. Louis hitters fits.

Maybe Albert Pujols' cold bat with warm up in China Basin. He's a .338 lifetime hitter against San Francisco with a .318 mark and six homers in 29 games at ATT Park.

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