|Andy Pettitte||Mark Mulder|
|6 - 7, 3.09||10 - 5, 4.34|
As the positive PR continues to roll in, the Astros commence a series this weekend that they're assuredly not expected to win, and probably, don't even need to win.
Simply staying away from a sweep should be sufficient to keep the train rolling: our wild card opponents are playing each other, the Marlins taking on the Phils, with the Braves taking their shots at the Mets. Nothing more than one out of three should be required for Houston, nor is any more anticipated. These are the Cardinals, after all, annoited if aging Kings of the NL this year, near the top of the heap in most of the hitting numbers AND, shockingly enough, in most of your pitching numbers, as well. And they're at home. There doesn't appear to be any particular penalty for facing them at Busch vs. on the road, but as you might expect, there's no advantage, either.
The Cardinals currently lead the NL in Runs scored, ERA, and WHIP. But I found it interesting that since June 1st, St. Louis and Houston have basically scored the same number of runs. The thing is, lately, the Cardinals have been more like the Astros than you'd guess, relying on their pitching.
Let's go back to Houston, with a 3.03 ERA in July, and having scored 62 runs. Houston is in second place leaguewide for the month with that ERA, .30 higher than Philadelphia. But the Astros trail the monthly ERA leader St. Louis by almost a full point. St. Louis has an ERA for July of 2.05.
2.05. That's pretty damned good over any ten-game stretch.
And their WHIP for July is only 1.05. Again, Houston is second to the Redbirds, both for the month, and overall. So if Houston's pitching has been great--and it has--then what do you call St. Louis?
Yet the mighty denizens of Busch have only scored 39 runs this month, fourteenth best in the NL. They're also 14th in OPS for July, a hundred and sixty-odd points behind Houston at .678. It's a little early to start fading, but Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds, and Larry Walker, while still understood to be extremely talented, are increasingly being seen as old and creaky, even by the Cards' own fans.
Since June 1st, Rolen, Edmonds, and Walker have combined to play in 65% of their possible games. Rolen's injury kind of skews that downward, but only slightly; after all, the inability for their stars to play regularly is kind of the point I'm making.
Albert Pujols has played in every game since Memorial Day, and he remains an amazing player. His overall OPS of 1.017 shows that, but the next highest OPS on the team is nearly three-tenths of a point lower, and that OPS belongs to Eckstein, of all people, at .727.
Eckstein is a neat player. He walks, he hustles down the line, and he comes around and scores rather frequently. But he should not be second on the Cardinals in OPS.
Reggie Sanders was the hottest Cardinal after Pujols for the month of June, but the streaky Sanders has sorta regressed back to his mean for July: he has a lifetime .835 OPS, and that's probably the number about which he'll hover the rest of the way.
So there's some cracks evident without even talking about the bullpen, which lboros over at Viva El Birdos had kind of identified as a potential trouble spot in his piece for us last night.
Thus clarified, I'll finish the statement I started up at the top of this piece: the Astros are not expected to win this series. They don't need to win this series. But there is certainly a possibility that they could win this series. As with the Padres and the Dodgers, it could be that Houston is catching the Cards at a bad time for them, and a good time for us.
With the way the two teams are pitching, at the very least, we should see three good, close ballgames under the arches this weekend. And if the Astros should wind up on top in a couple of them, well, that's just gravy.
|x||13||Yadier Molina||C1||Brad Ausmus||8|
|x||4||Einar Diaz||C2||Raul Chavez||2|
|x||34||Albert Pujols||1B||Lance Berkman||26|
|11||Mark Grudzielanek||2B||Craig Biggio||25||x|
|x||19||David Eckstein||SS||Adam Everett||16|
|11||Scott Rolen||3B||Morgan Ensberg||30||x|
|x||18||Reggie Sanders||OF1||Chris Burke||14|
|16||Larry Walker||OF2||Willy Taveras||26||x|
|13||Jim Edmonds||OF3||Jason Lane||17||x|
|x||10||So Taguchi||OF4||Orlando Palmeiro||6|
|4||John Mabry||Util/PH||Eric Bruntlett||4|
|0||Mark Mulder||P1||Andy Pettitte||0|
|x||2||Jason Marquis||P2||Roy Oswalt||0|
|x||2||Chris Carpenter||P3||Roger Clemens||1|
|185||Cards Since June 1||Astros Since June 1||183|