The St. Louis Cardinals look to put a little more space between themselves and the teams chasing them as they take on the 99-loss Houston Astros tonight. Anything less than a 3-game sweep would be a disappointment. Kyle Lohse (14-3, 2.81) starts tonight against Fernando Abad (0-4, 5.08). If history is any indicator, the Astros will probably lose, as they have lost every game Abad has appeared in since July 7.
Kyle Lohse looks for his 15th win tonight, and perhaps the Redbirds extra inning walk-off win is a sign of things to come. With late season collapses being the norm last season, the St. Louis Cardinals don’t want to fall victim to the pressure like the Atlanta Braves did last season. A 6-9 record so far this month doesn’t necessarily mean good things, but facing the Astros could be their get well remedy.
The St. Louis Cardinals can’t sleep on the Houston Astros though, because they have a 6-4 record in their last 10 games, and nearly swept the Philadelphia Phillies over the weekend. The Phillies came into town with a 7-game winning streak, so the Redbirds definitely have to watch out for a team whose only hope remaining in the season is to play spoiler. Another motivator for Houston is the fact that they are on the verge of winning three in a row for the first time since May 25.
The St. Louis Cardinals have five straight against the Houston Astros, and 8 of the last 10 meetings between the two teams at Busch Stadium. Kyle Lohse has given up three or fewer runs in 17 of his past 19 starts, and that should bode well for him and his teammates. After losing in a quality start effort, Mike Matheny said of Kyle Lohse’s last turn, “The start like he had tonight are the starts we need to capitalize on. He certainly did all that he could do.” This time, with a little more run support, Lohse should win. Against Houston, he has been at his best, going 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA in his last 4 stars.
Couple all this with the fact that Fernando Abad has failed miserably since joining the starting lineup, the win should come easy. Abad has faced such high pitch counts in his outings that he hasn’t been able to last more than 4 1/3 innings, meaning that he hasn’t as of yet qualified for a win.
Hitters who look to continue success against the Houston Astros are aplenty. Carlos Beltran has a .286 career average against them, along with 8 homeruns and 25 RBI in 61 career games. Allen Craig has an astounding .439 average to go with 5 homers and 20 RBI in just 17 games. Last year’s World Series hero, David Freese, is hitting .337 with 4 jacks, and 18 RBI in 26 games. In 62 career games against the Houston Astros, Matt Holliday has also enjoyed success, hitting .329 with 10 homeruns and 45 RBI.
With all that said, I look for a very successful 3 game series against the Astros. Starting pitching and good hitting should be the norm against a team that has managed just 68 Quality Starts, and possesses an overall team ERA of 4.66, and just a .238 batting average. A -206 run differential suggests good things for the Cardinals bats as well. Let’s hope that the upcoming stretch is as successful as it should be, as the Redbirds face the Astros at home, Cubs at Wrigley, and take a trip to Houston to face the Astros again. A long winning streak should be on the horizon, and hopefully one that sees our beloved Cardinals push their 1-game Wild Card lead to a much safer advantage.
Chris Carpenter‘s return on Friday should help too. Last year, he had a fabulous August and September, which spilled into a 4-0 post season in which the St. Louis Cardinals won all but one of the games he appeared in in the playoffs. Quality starts are the norm with Carpenter, and though it’s difficult to believe he will be 100%, there is no questioning his grit and toughness.
I will spare you the details of the surgery, as it involved a removed rib and a grueling rehab process. Normally, returns of this caliber bring a team the added motivation needed, and though it remains to be seen what Carpenter the Cardinals will get, I doubt his return will be a detriment. If God forbid he somehow aggravates his injury in some way, I see the Redbirds benefitting greatly from a pitcher who knows how to grind games out, and is almost always good for 6+ innings.
Some analysts have said that Carpenter will not return with better than his “C stuff,” but even that should be more than enough to get the St. Louis Cardinals where they need to be. Furthermore, Carpenter seems to thrive on doubters, so bring on the doubt and may the Cardinal Nation enjoy the experience of yet another memorable September and October. 12 in ’12 is not out of the question, and in my estimation, there has not been cause for such hope for the Redbirds in quite some time!