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Cardinals-Astros: Weekend Series Primer

Posted on April 10, 2009 at 11:00 AM
Filed Under: Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals
To get you ready for this weekend's series against the Houston Astros, I exchanged questions and answers with James of Astros County.  (My responses can be found here.)  James was part of the Playing Pepper series and made an appearance on the most recent UCB Radio Hour.  After the questions, we'll take a look at the matchups for this weekend.

C70: How big was the Ivan Rodriguez signing in your mind?

AC: It was...pleasant. Obviously Quintero and Towles weren't the answer, and Ed Wade had to do something. I think the original plan was to have Toby Hall win the job, but then he got hurt the first week of Spring Training. They were backed into a corner (and nobody backs Wade into a corner. See: Chacon, Shawn), and Pudge will be better than Quintero - both offensively and probably handling the pitching staff.

C70: The Astros had a very streaky spring.  What was the best thing you saw out of them in spring training and what was the worst?

AC: The starting pitching was solid - I think the starters' ERA was in the 3.00-3.50 range. So that was nice to see. The Astros haven't been so good at the "scoring runs" part of the game of baseball, so to see the offense struggle - yet again - was the worst thing. It doesn't matter if the Astros hold teams to three and four runs a game if they only score one or two.

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C70: You said in the Playing Pepper series that the rotation was the weakest spot going into spring training.  Is that still true?  How is the rotation shaping up?

AC: It's true, behind Roy there are four question marks: Can Wandy Rodriguez step up and prove to be a valuable, durable starter? Can Mike Hampton stay healthy? Will Brian Moehler continue the good run he had in 2008? Will Russ Ortiz return to form? But sometimes question marks do have answers, and it could be okay. The health of the rotation will determine the team, because basically the only pitcher "ready" for the rotation might be Jose Capellan, and he faded at the end of Spring Training. So the rotation has a shape - I just don't know what shape that is.

C70: What are your thoughts and expectations for Miguel Tejada this season?

AC: I just hope Tejada plays 2009 like the contract year it is. I think he's out of Houston at the end of the season, so he's on display - and I'm okay with that. He'll either do well, or he'll tank. Tejada got off pretty easy with his misleading of Congressional investigators, and the Astros fan in me hopes he plays like a weight's been lifted off his shoulder. Agree or disagree with the punishment, he was still punished, and it's time to move on.

C70: What's your prediction for the series?

AC: It looks like we've got Hampton/Piniero, Oswalt/Wainwright, and Wandy/Lohse. I'm a homer, so I'll say Hampton and Oswalt win and Wandy gets destroyed.

Appreciate James taking the time to look forward to this weekend's matchup.  I've written it up at CardsClubhouse for the most recent Bird's Eye View, but I'll hit some of the highlights of the pitching matchups here.

It just doesn't seem like it's been that long ago when Mike Hampton struck fear into Cardinal fans' hearts.  When he was with the Mets, he shut the Birds down with regularity,as he did in the 2000 NLCS.  So much so that the Cards pursued him vigoriously when he was a free agent, but because Colorado's schools are so much better, he went to the Rockies.  Then he began his long-time affair with the disabled list.

He's healthy now (at this moment, at least--maybe I need to check ESPN to make sure) and goes again against the Cardinals.  However, this is a much different team than the one he used to dominate, as only Albert Pujols has had much of a career line against him.  It's a pretty good one, though, hitting over .300 with two home runs.

Joel Pineiro goes for the Cards.  I feel a little better about this since it's not in the bandbox called Minute Maid Park.  Still, this will be an early test to see if Pineiro's spring carries over into the regular season.  If it does, the Cards probably take the first of the series.  If not, the lose-win-lose-win pattern continues.

Saturday, we get to see the Cards on national television as the two aces, Roy Oswalt and Adam Wainwright, go head to head.  This should be a game worth watching, as Oswalt has usually done well against the Cards and Wainwright beat the Astros three times last year, though it was against the 'Stros that he left the game with the finger injury that cost him two months.  I like the Cardinals in this game because they'll be able to use all their left-handed weapons and that lineup could score quite a few runs if they get Oswalt out of the game.

Sunday, Wandy Rodriguez goes against Kyle Lohse.  I looked it up and was right, Rodriguez did a number on the Cards last year, with a 1.11 ERA.  Somehow, though, the Cards hung a 1-2 record on him.  That kinda tough luck won't continue.  If Lohse is at all off of what he looked like in his first start, this one will go to the Astros.

7:15 tonight at Busch kicks it all off.  Should be a fun weekend!

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