It's time for another Cards-Cubs series, one of the best things going in the sports world. There is no other series that gets fans of these two teams more worked up than these series, and no other opponent that each group of fans hates to lose to more than each other. I've been to Card-Cub series at both Busch and Wrigley in the past, and to me, there is no more electric atmosphere in baseball. It even rivals the excitement in the air that always accompanies playoff series, particularly when there are post season implications like there are this weekend. Forget Sox-Yanks.....this is the best rivalry in baseball.
The Cards appear to be facing a tough task this weekend. They will be matched up against Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano in the first two games, guys who have historically pitched very well against the Birds. The Cubs have also been nearly unbeatable at Wrigley lately, where the Cards have struggled that last couple of years. The Cards will be boosted by the return of Chris Carpenter (and his 7-2 lifetime record against the Cubs) in the finale on Sunday. They also may have the return to the lineup of Rick Ankiel, although he is unlikely to play today against the lefthander Lilly, regardless. The Cards need this series more than the Cubs, so maybe they can use that touch of desperation to stay in the division race to their advantage, and take it to the Cubs this weekend.
The 3 Keys that I see to this weekend for the Cards:
1. The starting pitchers must work deep into games and avoid the big inning. The Cubs will murder our bullpen if it is over-exposed, so it is incumbent on the starters to work 6-7 innings so our bullpen only has to get six outs or so. The Cubs have put up a lot of big innings lately, so it will be key to limit that, particularly against Lilly and Zambrano, against whom the Cards have struggled to put up runs. Braden Looper and Carpenter both have pretty good track records pitching at Wrigley, so hopefully we have the right guys lined up to get this accomplished. Perhaps the Cards can also take advantage of using relievers like Chris Perez and Jaime Garcia in the late innings......pitchers the Cub hitters have not seen a lot of.
2. Troy Glaus. I posted a comment on the main page, detailing Glaus' struggles against the Cubs this year: 0 for 24 with 10 strikeouts. Glaus also was MIA in the four game series loss to the Brewers. I like Glaus and think he has been a great addition to the Birds this year, but we need him to come up big in our most important series against our biggest rivals. Pujols, Ludwick and Yadier Molina in the middle of the lineup have hit fairly well against Cub pitching this year, but they can't afford an automatic out in the 5 spot. Glaus needs to step up this weekend......big time.
3. Get the Cubs starters out of games relatively early. The Cards do not hit the Cubs' starters very well, but have had more success against the likes of Bob Howry and Kerry Wood in the past. It will be important to work pitch counts and get them up against Lilly, Zambrano and Dempster. If we can get those guys to pitch say, a maximum of six innings in these games and get into the bullpen, it gives our offense more time to have a better chance of putting runs on the board. We need long at-bats and a lot of making the Cubs starters work hard for every out.
This is the way I see it. Hopefully we'll see three great games this weekend, and add to the Cards-Cubs rivalry. These series are truly baseball like it oughta be, and here's hoping that this weekend continues that.
Enjoy the series everyone, and GO CARDS!!!!!!