If ever there was a chance for us to grab some ground on the Cardinals, this series is it. Both Kyle Loshe and Brad Penny have been placed on the DL for the redbirds, leaving them turning to a AAA pitcher in game two of the series against a hated rival. We’ve also been winning some games, albeit barely, against some good teams since the rough patch that ended with a series loss to the Pirates. Derrek Lee is slowly coming out of his slump, hitting the Dodgers hard all series and could be ready to help contribute to some wins.
The strangest issue around this team was the injury news yesterday. Carlos Zambrano was taken to the hospital with what they thought was appendicitis (turned out to be bad gas from the leftovers he ate in the clubhouse fridge – J/K). Word is that he’s available today out of the pen as he preps for what appears to be a start against Pittsburgh next series.
The other injury issue was Jeff Baker, who lost vision in one of his eyes. He’s been examined and we’ll know more soon. Maybe it’s just me, but we seem to have some weird injuries. Kerry Wood slipped in the hot tub. Felix Pie twisted his testicle (God only knows how). Mark DeRosa had irregular heartbeat issues. Sammy Sosa spazed out his back after he sneezed. Jose Cardenal had his eyelids swollen shut when he woke up one morning. Zambrano had a case of internet elbow. This is just another weird one. Let’s hope Baker is OK, because all I can think of is what happened to Kirby Puckett and his gradual degeneration that led to virtual blindness.
This should be a series we’re capable of winning if we take care of business in game two and squeak out a win against one of the birds good pitchers in game one or three.
Chris Carpenter (5-1, 3.09 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (3-2, 3.99 ERA)
Carpenter was let off the hook in his last start after allowing five runs, four earned, on eight hits over six innings against Anaheim. The team rallied for an extra-inning victory on a walk-off hit by Felipe Lopez, thus removing Carpenter from the decision. Two home runs spoiled Carpenter’s outing, although he said afterward that his command felt good. He walked two and struck out four and has surrendered nine home runs so far this season after giving up only seven all of last year.
Strength – An efficient starter with a tremendous frame, he induces tons of ground balls. Is an intense competitor. Owns a tremendous curve and dominant stuff, overall.
Weakness – Injuries have placed a slight damper on his career. As a result, his durability and stamina aren’t quite where they could be.
Wells did not get a decision in his last start against the Rangers but had a stellar outing. He gave up three runs on seven hits and went 8 1/3 innings, his longest outing of the year. Wells also struck out six. He’s learning — he was able to work quickly, get ahead of batters and the only mistakes were two pitches, which Vladimir Guerrero and Nelson Cruz both launched out of the Ballpark at Arlington.
Adam Ottavino (AAA) vs. Carlos Silva (6-0, 3.52 ERA)
This is the spot that Kyle Lohse would normally occupy, but Lohse was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and will undergo forearm surgery on Friday in Los Angeles. No timetable has been set for his return. Meanwhile, while the team has yet to make a formal announcement, manager Tony La Russa indicated that Triple-A Memphis right-hander Adam Ottavino will be called up to make the start in Chicago. Ottavino last pitched on Monday for the Redbirds and picked up the victory after allowing one run over five innings. In eight starts with Memphis this season, Ottavino has gone 4-3 with a 4.17 ERA.
Silva is off to his best start ever at 6-0. He picked up his last win over the Rangers, giving up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. It was a short start, primarily because of the heat and humidity. The more Silva wins, the more confident he gets. He’s already picked up more “W’s” in his first nine starts than he did in 34 starts the last two years with Seattle.
Adam Wainwright (6-3, 2.38 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (3-4, 3.31 ERA)
No scouting report on what to expect from Adam Wainwright from MLB.com, so I’ll tell you a little information that I know. He’s good. He’s very very good. He’s a former 1st round draft pick by the Braves that won 19 games last year, tops in the NL. He’s a four pitch guy (FB, SL, CB, and CH) but his fastball speed really isn’t all that impressive. He generally hovers right around 90 mph. I can’t remember the last time I saw him pitch, so I’d imagine he locates that pitch really well and gets good movement on it to compensate for the lack of speed.
Strength – Has good, sinking action on a fastball that can hit 93 m.p.h., as well as a great overhand curve, decent change-up and slider. Can dominate when on the bump and he’s also a workhorse.
Weakness – Doesn’t always have great command of his breaking stuff, which gets him into trouble. Left-handed hitters do better against him than righties, in general.
Dempster will close the Cubs’ six-game homestand and hopes to end the way he started it. Last Tuesday, he threw eight shutout innings and snapped a personal four-game losing streak in the Cubs’ 3-0 win over the Dodgers. Dempster was able to avoid the one bad inning that has snuck up on him this season. Last year, he was 0-1 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals. He’s 6-6 with a 4.35 ERA in his career against St. Louis.
Scouting reports taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca
Golden Cardinal Nuggets
Notes provided by Matt over at our sister SweetSpot Network blog, Fungoes
Who’s Hot / Who’s Not
Hot: David Freese has been the team’s most consistent offensive catalyst over the last month with an OBP of .389 and a SLG of .463. Felipe Lopez has rocked opposing pitching in nine games since returning from the DL (.385/.515).
Note: Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan has lost playing time to Lopez due to flakiness in the field and at the plate. Colby Rasmus started strong but his initial good luck has caught up to him (.306/.329 in May).
Tony La Russa’s lineup tinkering was an exercise in futility and ultimately contributed to and culminated in a tiff between Albert Pujols and the manager last Friday when the two exchanged heated words (Pujols has been back in his customary #3 slot ever since).
Injuries to 40% of the starting rotation have pressed prospects PJ Walters and Adam Ottavino into action. The loss of Brad Penny hurts, but the Cardinals won’t see much drop off in performance between Lohse and either of the AAA callups. Ottavino, who will face the Cubs Saturday, was the team’s first-round pick in the 2006 draft but has stalled in his last couple of years in the minors, with a 4.95 FIP in 2008 and 4.55 FIP in 2009.
Although Jason Heyward has received all the Rookie-of-the-Year love, the Cardinals’ David Freese is third among all NL third basemen and second among rookies to Heyward (1.9) in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), with 1.6. Fellow Cardinal Jaime Garcia leads all rookie pitchers with 1.4.
The Cubs are so weak, they can’t even spell WAR. (Sabermetric Joke)