If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to take top spot in the NL Central division away from the Chicago Cubs prior to the All-Star Break, they’re going to have to do it without the services of an important player – slugging first baseman Albert Pujols.
Pujols left the Cards’ game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday with a calf injury, and that strain could now cost him the next three weeks of action. St. Louis also had to put starting pitcher Adam Wainwright on the disabled list with a sprained finger. So does that mean you should focus all of your baseball betting elsewhere in the weeks ahead?
Well, the Cards did suggest that they were going to remain competitive this month without those two in their lineup when they took care of business in the first two games of their series against the Reds. On Tuesday St. Louis got a Pujols-like performance from Ryan Ludwick (four hits, four RBI) and a strong outing from callup Mitchell Boggs (five innings, two earned runs) in an easy 7-2 road win. On Wednesday Braden Looper tossed a complete-game shutout as the Cardinals romped to a 10-0 win.
That made it four victories in a row for the Cardinals, who also enter Thursday night’s finale against the Reds as winners of seven of their past 10 contests. This weekend, though, the Cardinals will get a tougher test – while everyone else is engaged in an interleague series, they’ll be in a set against the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies.
Friday night’s opener sees St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse (7-2, 3.92 ERA) matched up against Philadelphia’s Kyle Kendrick (5-2, 4.87 ERA). Saturday has the Cardinals’ Todd Wellemeyer (7-1, 2.93 ERA) taking on the Phillies’ Adam Eaton (2-3, 4.62 ERA). Sunday’s projected pitchers are Brett Myers (3-8, 5.34 ERA) and Boggs (1-0, 3.86 ERA).
The best of that bunch of pitchers lately has been Wellemeyer, who hasn’t been tagged with a loss since April 28. The righthander last pitched on June 5 against the Nationals, when he threw six scoreless innings and allowed just five hits (while fanning five). One note of caution, though – Wellemeyer missed a start earlier this week with a sore elbow.
On offense there’s no doubt that the Cardinals will miss Pujols, but Ludwick actually leads the team in RBI (to go along with the 15 home runs and .318 batting average he had heading into play on Thursday). As well, Rick Ankiel homered both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Philadelphia got series wins against each of the Reds and Atlanta Braves last week, but they lost the first two games of their set against the Florida Marlins on Tuesday and Wednesday. Myers in particular had problems – he surrendered five earned runs (and three home runs) on seven hits over 5 1-3 innings of work on Tuesday.
The Phillies are also concerned about Ryan Howard’s lack of production; the first baseman does have 15 home runs heading into play on Thursday, but that total is accompanied by an anemic .208 batting average. Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, and Pat Burrell will continue to lead the way on offense for the Phillies while Howard struggles.