April 15, 2009

Series Preview: Cubs vs. Cardinals (4/16-4/19)

The first 'big' series of the year is coming up for the Cubs. So far it seems that the Cardinals are the only credible competition for the Cubs this year within the division, though the Cubs should finish well ahead of them. I was feeling much more bullish about the Cardinals until Carpenter was injured yesterday, which is really too bad for them. I caught an inning or two of the game before his injury and it reminded me of why I like watching Carpenter pitch. He should still be a factor for the rest of the season, but those oblique injuries can be pretty strange.

The Cubs are suddenly looking banged up too, though it's not too surprising considering the cold weather they've been playing in. The Cubs will be without Bradley until the weekend, due to his groin injury. I don't think we see him until next week, seeing how wet the weather this weekend is supposed to be (I wouldn't be surprised if the Sunday game is rained out). Ramirez has been day-to-day with a stiff back and Soto just returned from a minor shoulder/biceps problem as well. He went 0-4 today and I would not be surprised if it takes him a few games to get into a groove at the plate.

Who's hot
Lee (has been hitting the ball hard)


Who's not


The matchups
Thursday: Wainwright v Marshall (1:20 start)
Wainwright is a good pitcher, but I feel good about the team's chances against him at this point in the season. He struggled to find the strike zone and thus ran up some early pitch counts in his first two starts (8 BB in 10.1 IP). Given how patient the Cubs have been lately, we might expect to see more of the same in this start. This will be Marshall's first start this year, and I'm interested in seeing how he'll do. As always, the Cardinals have an offense that's better than it appears, and I think they rough up Marshall this time around. I expect this to be a high-scoring game.

Friday: Lohse v Zambrano (1:20 start)
This should be a good game. Zambrano always brings his A game against the Cardinals, and Lohse has pitched very well thus far this season (albeit against the poor-hitting Pirates and Astros). Lohse has shown better control so far this year, and I have the feeling that this one will be a real pitchers' duel.

Saturday: Wellemeyer v Dempster (2:40 start)
Wellemeyer is yet another Larussa/Duncan reclamation project that I keep expecting to blow up in their faces, and yet he keeps producing. I hated him when he was with the Cubs, but he's been better than decent since joining the Cardinals. Dempster was quite shaky in his last outing, so it will be interesting to see if he bounces back. I hope he made good on his promise to Reed Johnson to buy him some Culver's for hauling back Fielder's grand slam.

Sunday: Lilly v TBA (7:05 start)
It's another night game, and should be cool due to the rain that's moving through this weekend (which might cancel the game). This should help Ted - he pitched well in the cold conditions in the home opener on Monday. Lilly's one of those guys who gives you a better-than-quality start when he has his stuff/the conditions are good, but gets shelled if he's off. I'm thinking Lilly puts up another good performance and the Cubs crush whomever the Cards throw out there to replace Carpenter.

Random Predictions
Cubs win series 3-1 (win on Sunday and the other three games are close)
Pujols hits 3 HR in the series
Derrek Lee heats up, hits 2 HR