Cheap Seats

Series Preview: Diamondbacks at Cardinals

The Cardinals say goodbye to the Reds and head into their last series of the first half of the season with a 47-41 record and a one-game lead over the Brewers to lead the National League Central Division.

They'll host a surprising Arizona team that holds the same record, which is good enough in the NL West for second place, two games behind the division leading Giants.

Arizona doesn't hit for average with a .251 team mark. But the Diamonbacks have power up and down the batting order with five starters in double figures in homers. Justin Upton ranks as the team's best offensive player. He leads Diamondbacks starters in batting average at .295 to go with his 14 homers, third on the club behind centerfielder Chris Young's 16 longballs and second sacker Kelly Johnson's 15.

Johnson, who had a breakout year at the plate, has struggled to make contact this season. He's batting only .217 with 100 strikeouts in 313 at bats. He's walked 33 times.

Pitching match-ups:

Arizona lefty Joe Saunders (5-7, 4.04) will start the opener against Cardinals righty Kyle McClellan (6-5, 4.27). Saunders is 3-4 on the road with a 3.42 ERA. He's pitched at least seven innings in five of his last six starts and and he's 3-2 over that span. McClellan has been going in the other direction. He's pitched as many as seven innings only once in his last six starts and the Cardinals have lost the last five games that he's started.

Game two figures to be the marquee pitching match-up of this four-game set with each of the club's statistically best pitchers taking the hill. Ian Kennedy (8-3, 3.38) starts for the Diamondbacks while Kyle McClellan (8-5, 2.97) goes for the Cardinals. The last time Kennedy pitched against St. Louis the Redbirds knocked him out with nine runs scored on seven hits in three innings. But he's been dominant with 103 strikeouts compared to 33 walks. He's a road warrior with a 5-1 record and a 3.23 ERA away from Phoenix. Lohse doesn't strike out nearly so many with 60 whiffs compared to 20 walks. But he's allowing only 1.04 base runners per inning with 100 hits allowed in 115 1/3 frames.

Daniel Hudson (9-5, 3.75) will start the third game of the series against resurgent Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter (4-7, 3.74). Hudson isn't nearly as good away from home with a 4-2 record and a 4.58 ERA as he is in Phoenix. But he's struck out 95 with 27 walks this season, so he's capable of dominating. Carpenter was 1-7 three starts ago with an ERA of 4.47. The Cardinals have let him go deep into games, averaging more than 120 pitched in his last three outings, and it seems to agree with him. In his last 24 innings, Carp has allowed 18 hits and two earned runs.

In the finale, Zach Duke (2-3, 5.40) will start for Arizona against Jaime Garcia (8-3, 3.23). Duke, a lefty, is 4-6 with a 3.86 ERA in his career against the Cardinals. He's been in a pattern of winning one game, then losing one game, dating back to June 8th... And, if the pattern holds true, he's due to lose his next outing. Duke's numbers would be considerably better if you subtracted his two interleague outings in which he was shelled for 16 hits and 10 runs in nine innings combined against the Tigers and Indians. Garcia is in a pattern of his own: Pitching pretty well and then getting into trouble in just one inning. In his most recent start against the Reds he was able to overcome a bout of wildness and leave with two hits and one run allowed over six innings. In the game before that, he wasn't so fortunate and was pounded for 10 hits and five runs over five frames.