Well, the game is tonight. 7:15 p.m. central time. Should be a lot of fun, actually. This game features a former Cardinal and a new Cardinal on the mound, with Kip Wells going for the Rockies and Kyle Lohse going for St. Louis. Instead of doing advantages and so forth as I did yesterday, I’ll just say this much:
Kip Wells is terrible. We Cardinals fans figured that out last year when he went 7-17. He had a few bright spots but many very bad starts and even some screw-ups in the bullpen. Wells was as frustrating as Jason Marquis (at least to THIS Cardinals fan). But tonight, he pitches against the Cardinals. The same team that features a pitching coach that knows Wells’ entire pitch selection. The same team that features a particular first baseman that has hit four home runs off Wells in his career.
Lohse has been inconsistent his whole career, but Wells has usually been pretty bad (with a few O.K. seasons thrown in occasionally). Lohse has the possibility to pitch like a Cy Young winner, and Wells has the potential to pitch like a pitching machine. Oh, and as for inconsistent players coming into the Cardinals organization, that hasn’t turned out TOO bad, just look at what Dave Duncan accomplished with Jeff Weaver.
I like the Cardinals chances tonight. I think Wells will get rocked early and Lohse will pitch well. A lot of this game does depend on how Lohse pitches, because I have complete confidence in the Cardinals’ lineup putting up numbers. It should be an interesting game…
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS – 6
COLORADO ROCKIES – 3
WP: Kyle Lohse
LP: Kip Wells
S: Jason Isringhausen
HR: Pujols (two-run HR off Wells), Ankiel (solo HR off Rockies bullpen)
HR: Holliday (3-run HR off Lohse, but not enough to win game)
Also look out for Troy Glaus to have a big day…a two-RBI double seems to be in the picture.
Crazy predictions? Maybe, but I’m optimistic that the Cardinals can destroy Kip Wells today.
Adam Wainwright said it best:
“We’re playing with that sense of ‘What do we have to lose?”‘ Wainwright said. “Nobody’s expecting anything from us. We’re going to go out there and play free and easy and … go after it with an excitement level that’s pretty hard to match.”
What do we have to lose? Right? Yeah, the Cards have been picked to finish third to last, second to last, and last in the National League Central this year. The same “experts” who picked St. Louis to lose in three games in the 2006 World Series are now saying a “patchwork rotation” and “spotty lineup” and “questionable bullpen” will cause the downfall of the 2006 World Champions. Well, so-called experts, that’s a bold prediction. Very bold.
Sure, the rotation is patchwork, but when you throw in Kyle Lohse and Matt Clement, your patchwork is made of something less like cloth and more like steel.
Sure, the lineup features Cesar Izturis and the pitcher in the 8 hole. But the Cardinals said goodbye to the aging and oft-injured Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds in favor of Troy Glaus (multiple seasons of 35 HR) and Rick Ankiel (who can hit with the best of them; amazing bat speed). The Cardinals also finally found a leadoff hitter in outfielder Skip Schumaker, and I think he’s going to make a name for himself this year. Brian Barton, picked up in the Rule 5 Draft, is going to be a star once he gets going, and he also will help a once-shoddy lineup.
As for the bullpen, despite having early discontent with the move, I’ve grown more towards liking the move of Anthony Reyes to the bullpen. I believe he’s going to a great long reliever, and if Tony has faith in him, so do I. Russ Springer and Ryan Franklin are no joke. They are going to really be the nails that hold this bullpen together.
And besides, this pitching staff is only going to get better. After the all-star break the Cards should have a rotation of something like this:
Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Matt Clement, Mark Mulder, and Braden Looper/Joel Piniero/whoever does well.
That’s quite a step up from 2007…
But anyway, here is your preview of today’s game, which starts at 3:15 p.m. central time. It starts the moment the bell rings for school to get out and I have another appointment at 4:15, so I can’t do much but listen to the game for thirty minutes and head back to town for what I have planned, but I’m going to have my mind on the game, that’s for sure.
It’s opening day; to me it’s a national holiday.
So, the Cardinals start out with a lineup of:
1. Skip Schumaker (LF)
2. Ryan Ludwick (RF)
3. Albert Pujols (1B)
4. Troy Glaus (3B)
5. Rick Ankiel (CF)
6. Yadier Molina (C)
7. Cesar Izturis (SS)
8. Adam Wainwright (RHSP)
9. Aaron Miles (2B)
And the Rockies:
1. Willy Taveras (CF)
2. Troy Tulowitzki (SS)
3. Todd Helton (1B)
4. Matt Holliday (LF)
5. Garrett Atkins (3B)
6. Brad Hawpe (RF)
7. Yorvit Torrealba (C)
8. Jayson Nix (2B)
9. Jeff Francis (LHSP)
Now, looking at both lineups, I see a lot of offensive firepower.
I see guys who can go deep at any time in Pujols, Glaus, Ankiel, Tulowitzki, Helton, and Holliday. The lineups are both very good and feature lots of diverse players. I really don’t know who to give the advantage to as far as offense goes, because for every Cesar Izturis non-factor player there is a Jayson Nix to counteract it. But, there’s something to remember here. This is St. Louis. This is a home game for the Cardinals, and the home team comes to play and has their fans behind them. Another thing to note is that Albert Pujols is still much better than Matt Holliday. Glaus is more proven than Tulowitzki, as well. Helton has the upside against Ankiel because Helton is a proven star who can take anyone deep…but age may player a role. Ankiel is much younger and his bat speed is better.
With defense, you have to look at each position. At catcher, Yadier Molina is three times what anyone else in the National League can bring to the table. That’s a little biased, but there is no one better to be catching for Adam Wainwright and no one better to throw off any kind of running game Colorado might try to bring in this game. At first, Albert is a gold glove winner. At second, Miles is sure-handed and doens’t make too many mistakes, so I give him the heads up over Jayson Nix, who I’ve never heard of before (ashamed to admit this, but I have to be honest).Third base goes to Garrett Atkins, who is still better than Glaus (who is an offensive guy, not a defensive guy). At shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki is in my opinion the best shortstop defensively in the NL. Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez, watch out. Tulo is a good one. In the outfield, Holliday is good, and Taveras is okay, but Ankiel has a great arm and has progressed a lot as a fielder and Skip Schumaker is one of the best defensive outfielders on the team. At least Barton and Duncan are playing today.
Finally, as much as this plagues me, the pitching game today is going to determine the winner. Adam Wainwright is very good, and he can pitch with the best of them when he’s got it going (look at the second half last year), but which Wainwright will we see today? No idea, but throw Wainwright out of the talk. Colorado starter Jeff Francis is the water to the Cardinals’ fire. Francis is 4-1 against the Cards in his career and has an ERA of something like 2.02 against St. Louis. These Tony La Russa teams always have one huge glaring weakness for some reason: soft-tossing left handed pitchers.
Francis is a soft-tossing left handed pitcher. This is a new, more powerful lineup, but if they can’t hit Francis, all my team predictions go down the drain. For whatever reason, left handed pitchers who mix in a lot of offspeed pitches always dominate the Cardinals (at least in the past few years). Francis’s record and ERA prove that point. Despite Waino being as good as he is, odds are that Francis will be more effective today.
Overall, it’s going to come down to one thing: Can Adam Wainwright keep the Cardinals in the game long enough for St. Louis to get a shot at the Colorado Rockies bullpen? That Rockies lineup is a good one, but if Wainwright can neutralize those threats, the Cardinals have a real chance. I think that will happen. If the ‘Birds can’t get to Francis, they’ll get to the bullpen eventually. I like our chances from that point on. A lot rests on this pitching battle…
St. Louis – 4
Colorado – 2
Hopefully we can finish the day saying “That’s a Winner” and start off the 2008 season on a high note.
Yes, Monday is opening day. Yes, it’s 11:04 P.M. on Sunday when I’m writing this, so it’s not long til Monday…but I just wanted to get on this blog and say that I am
for baseball season.
Who’s with me?