Following their 2-1 series win against the Padres, the Cardinals will take on another National League West club starting Friday when they pay a visit to Colorado.
The Birds, 30-21, are 2 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee in first place in the National League Central with a 16-12 road record and a 9-7 mark against West Division foes. The Rockies are 24-24 with a 12-12 mark at Coors Field and eight wins in 15 games against Central opponents.
Colorado has won four of its last 10 games and, after a hot start, has struggled lately as both its offense and its pitching has struggled.
Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, armed with his new $80-million contract, has hit .251 with eight homers in the early going. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who got a brand new $158 million contract over the winter, is batting .244 with 11 homers. On the bright side, Colorado's previous big contract gamble -- Todd Helton -- has shown signs of life lately wit a .306 batting average and six longballs.
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The Rockies were dealt a serious blow earlier in the week when it was determined starting pitcher Jorge de la Rosa, who is tied for the team lead with five victories, has a torn ligament in his elbow and that he needs Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, 2010 Cy Young Award candidate Ubaldo Jiminez is winless for the season with a 5.44 ERA.
It's not like the Cardinals aren't without their own problems. Former Rockies All-Star Matt Holliday is sidelined with a calf strain that could end up landing him on the disabled list -- or at least keeping him out of the games against his old club. Holliday is a .358 hitter in Coors field over his career. He's smacked 87 homers there in 364 games. He's a .386 hitter against the Rockies since joining the Cardinals.
In the opener Jake Westbrook (4-3, 5.17) will take on Ubaldo Jiminez (0-4, 5.44). Westbrook has won both of his career starts and has a 1.15 ERA against the Rockies. He's coming off a strong start in which he pitched eight innings while allowing no runs and only four hits to Kansas City to get a win. Jiminez had his best start of the year -- by far -- in his last start against the Brewers. He pitched eight innings in which he only permitted two hits. But five walks and a costly error came back to haunt him and he ended up on the losing side of the ledger.
Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia (5-0, 1.93) will start the middle game of the set against minor league call up Juan Nicasio (0-0, -.--). Nicassio was recalled from Class AA Tulsa where he had a 2.22 ERA. Garcia has no record against Colorado. He's started one game against the Rockies and he gave up nine hits and two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. Nicasio, 24, is a 6-foot-3 righty. He had a 5-1 record at Tulsa where he struck out 63 and walked 10 in 56 1/3 innings.
Kyle Lohse (6-2, 2.06) will start the finale against Jhoulys Chacin (5-3, 3.09). Lohse has won his last two starts, allowing 11 hits and two runs over his last 16 innings. He's struck out eight and walked two over that span. Lohse is 1-3 with a 3.92 in his career against Colorado. Chacin threw seven innings and allowed five hits and five earned runs in his last outing, a 5-2 loss to Arizona.