Friday, August 13, 2010

Series Preview: Cubs VS Cardinals

St. Louis here I come! I'll be blogging live from Gateway City all weekend as I take in the games on Friday night and Saturday afternoon.

The Cubs are trying to get things together. They are in the middle of a tough stretch of 20 games in 20 days, while the Cardinals are enjoying a stretch of three off days in an eight day span. The Cubbies lost three of four in San Francisco but played well in all four games. The bats are showing signs off life, but in the end a lineup of mostly subs couldn't get the job done against the Wild Card leaders.

They were without their starting first baseman & manager due to family problems, their catcher and third baseman due to injuries, and their second baseman and reserve infielder due to trades. On top of that, Alfonso Soriano and Marlon Byrd both received a day off in the series. Their bullpen includes five rookies. What about their two best starting pitchers in the first half? One disabled, one traded. It's no wonder the Cubs lost that series.

The Cubs have seen a ton of prospects get the chance to get some big league experience lately. Three position players alone were called up from Iowa during the set with the Giants. Darwin Barney made his big league debut at second base on Thursday but did not come to the plate. Welington Castillo made his debut on Wednesday night and doubled in his first big league at-bat. Micah Hoffpauir went 0-for-6 with an error in one start and one pinch hit AB in the series. Micah could be sent down today when Derrek Lee is activated off of the bereavement list.

D-Lee is expected to rejoin the team. Keep the fan favorite first baseman in your thoughts as his grandfather is very ill. Lou Piniella will also return to the dugout tonight after leaving to be with his ailing mother. Bench coach Alan Trammell managed the last four games and is now 1-6 on the year when he takes over for Lou.

While the Cubs will be with their manager, the Cardinals will be without theirs. Tony LaRussa was suspended by Major League Baseball for his involvement in a bench clearing brawl in a game between the Cards and Reds earlier in the week. LaRussa will start his suspension tonight and then return for the series finale on Sunday. Bench coach Joe Pettini is expected to be at the helm in place of the suspended skipper.

While the Cubs are 17 games out of first and falling fast, this is a very important series for the St. Louis ballclub. They swept the Reds this week and hold a one game lead over Cincinnati for the top spot in the NL Central. The Reds, who will also be without manager Dusty Baker because of the brawl, will take on the Marlins this weekend.

The Red Birds come in at 64-49, while the Cubs hold a record of 48-67. The pair of old rivals will see a lot of each other down the stretch. They play a three game series at Busch Stadium Sept. 13-16, and then the Cards come to Wrigley September 24-26. That series will conclude the Cubs final homestand of the season.

The Cardinals are one of the only team in the division that the Cubs do not have a record under .500 against... but their mark against the Cards is at .500 at 3-3. They dropped two of three at home May 28-30, but then the Cubs won the set July 23-25. This is the first trip the Cubs have made all season to Busch Stadium.

Aramis Ramirez could be back in the lineup tonight. He injured his left side on Monday when he dove for a ball and missed the end of the Giants series with soreness. The Cubs are starting to get some guys back in there, but another waive of guys from Triple-A is still expected.

Game 1: Friday at 7:15 CT
Cubs Starting Pitcher: Thomas Diamond, RHP (0-2, 8.00 ERA)
Cardinals Starting Pitcher: Jake Westbrook, RHP (0-0, 3.46 ERA)
TV/Radio: CSN/WGN Radio

Game 2: Saturday at 3:10
Cubs Starting Pitcher: Carlos Zambrano, RHP (3-6, 5.76 ERA
Cardinals Starting: Chris Carpenter, RHP (13-3, 2.89 ERA)
TV/Radio: FOX/WGN Radio

Game 3: Sunday at 1:15
Cubs Starting Pitcher: Ryan Dempster, RHP (10-8, 3.66 ERA)
Cardinals Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse, RHP (1-4, 5.89 ERA)
TV/Radio: WGN-TV/WGN Radio

Let's push the Cardinals out of first!

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