MLB Insiders - St.Louis Cardinals


Posted Jun 13, 2006


The Pittsburgh Pirates back from a 4-3 road swing open a three-game series against the St.Louis Cardinals tonight at PNC Park. Struggling Pirates left-hander Oliver Perez will oppose Cardinals ace right-hander Chris Carpenter.

MLB INSIDERS

NOTES:When the Cardinals play the Pirates in a three-game series beginning in Pittsburgh Tuesday night, they will be finishing a stretch of 15 games inside a National League Central Division that had been good to them before this year.

The Cardinals have won only five of the first 12 games in that stretch and are just 16-18 in the division after going 51-29 last year against the NL Central and playing at a 54-36 clip against the Central in 2004, when they also won the division title.

Manager Tony La Russa pointed out, however, "It all comes down to Cincinnati and Chicago. (The Cardinals are 5-12 against those two teams). The thing is you wait until October and see if it was that way all year long or just the way we started against them.

"I think we're going to do all right."

Third baseman Scott Rolen said, "I haven't made anything out of it. I didn't know we had a losing record.

"I'm not one to over-sensationalize it. My theory is to play good baseball and hope the team you play is not playing better baseball. When you're not playing good baseball is when you start scratching your head and panicking."

The Cardinals are 5-1 against the Pirates this season and have won three-fourths of their games at PNC Park since it opened in 2001.

Pitching his second game off the disabled list, Carpenter hopes to end the Cardinals' recent trend of poor performances by their starting pitchers as they face the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.

Carpenter (4-3, 2.83 ERA) was activated from the 15-day DL to start last Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, lasting just five innings as he gave up three runs and nine hits in a 7-0 defeat.

The team continues to make do without Albert Pujols. The Cardinals (37-25) had a combined 20 runs and 30 hits in the series, just their second since Pujols went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.

The absence of the reigning NL MVP is big for Pittsburgh, which has watched Pujols amass 18 home runs and 49 RBIs in 42 games at PNC Park. It's particularly advantageous for Oliver Perez (2-7, 7.18), who has struggled against Pujols, allowing him to hit .375 (9-for-24) with three home runs, two doubles and a triple.

"Losing Pujols is huge because he's probably the best player in the big leagues," Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson said. "We have to take advantage of St. Louis not having a guy like that."

Perez is 0-2 in his last four starts and has lost two straight decisions, including a 16-9 defeat to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. He lasted just two innings, giving up nine runs and five hits, including a grand slam in the second inning.

After allowing four earned runs over 20 innings in his previous three starts, the left-hander has been ripped for 14 runs in five innings in his last two.

--3B Scott Rolen has hit .435 in the seven games that 1B Albert Pujols has missed and has driven in nine runs.

--SS David Eckstein leads the league with 83 hits and is on his way to his first 200-hit season. His career high was 185 last year, his first with the Cardinals.

--RHP Chris Carpenter will make his second start Tuesday night since coming off the disabled list (bursitis). He lasted only five innings last Wednesday, giving up three runs to the Cincinnati Reds in a 7-3 loss.

--The Cardinals have received just 13 innings from their starters in the last three games, and those starters have walked 12 hitters. "We've got to get that rotation straightened out," said manager Tony La Russa.

--RHP Jeff Suppan's next try for his 100th win -- he has failed in the last four -- will come Saturday at home against Colorado. BY THE NUMBERS: 1934, 1982 -- The last two times the Cardinals won the World Series in a World Cup year. On both occasions, the World Cup winners were the Italians. "I have no trouble rooting for them," joked manager Tony La Russa.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'm going psycho." -- INF/OF Scott Spiezio, on the difficulty he had shaking a virus.

MEDICAL WATCH:

LHP Ricardo Rincon went on the disabled list retroactive to April 19 with a left shoulder injury. He underwent surgery to repair rotator cuff and impingement problems and will miss the remainder of the season.

RHP Chris Carpenter, who had been on the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder, was activated June 6.

INF/OF Scott Spiezio missed six games with an upper respiratory infection before appearing as a pinch hitter June 6.

1B Albert Pujols went on the disabled list June 4 with a strained right oblique muscle. He is unlikely to return before July.

OF Larry Bigbie went on the disabled list June 6 with a hernia. He had surgery on June 8, and he is expected to miss three to four weeks.

LF John Rodriguez left the game June 11 with a right wrist injury.


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