Cardinals (77-70) vs. Astros (48-99) series preview

With 15 games left in the season, the Cards are 1 game up on the Dodgers, 2.5 games up on the Brewers and Pirates and 3.5 games on the Phillies for the final WC spot.  The Cards schedule is in their favor, with 6 of the next 9 games against the Astros and 3 against the Cubs.  The Cards return home to start a 3 game series with the Astros tonight, a team that has lost 99 games in 2012.  A lot of fans don’t like that the Cards are playing a team with nothing left to lose, but I’m not one of them.  This is exactly who I want the Cards to be playing, and I think it will separate them from the teams chasing them.

Here are the SP matchups for the series:

Game 1:  Fernando Abad (0-4, 5.08) vs. Kyle Lohse (14-3, 2.81)

Game 2:  Lucas Harrell (10-9, 3.86) vs. Lance Lynn (15-7, 3.95)

Game 3:  Bud Norris (5-12, 4.93) vs. Jaime Garcia (4-7, 4.24)

To go along with his 5.08 ERA, Abad has a WHIP of 1.74.  His career WHIP is 1.59 in 77.2 IP.  Unlike recent years, the Cardinals are crushing starting lefties this year with a line of .286/.355/.477.  Harrell is by far the Astros best SP, leading the for starters in ERA, WHIP and IP.  The Cardinals have kept Norris in the majors over the last few years, but he’s only 2-3 against us in his last 5 games.

The Astros BP is 14th in the NL in ERA at 4.63, 14th in WHIP at 1.48 and last in BAA at .277.

The Astros offense is anemic at best.  For team rankings in the NL, they’re last in BA at .238, 15th in OBP at .303, 15th in SLG at .370 and last in OPS at .673.

The Astros did the Cardinals a favor by taking 3 of 4 from the Phillies in their last series.  Philly may have been looking ahead while the Astros played the spoiler.  The Astros will continue to try and play that role because that’s all they have left, as they will finish with the worst record in MLB and the first pick in the draft.

Even with the recent skid, the Cardinals are still among the leaders in the NL on offense.  They lead in AVG at .271, they lead in OBP at .336, .422 puts them 4th in SLG and .758 puts them 3rd in OPS.  The Cards SP is 3rd in the NL with a 3.71 ERA, 8th in WHIP at 1.29, and 13th in BAA at .265.  The BP is 11th in ERA at 4.13, 8th in WHIP at 1.30 and 9th in BAA at .245.

The real story of the 2012 Cardinals is that they have 35 saves in 56 save opportunities.  Numbers don’t always tell the complete story, but in this case, they do.  The Cards are in a fight for the final WC spot because of the BP.  You could make a case for timely hitting being a factor, but if the BP would have been a steady one for games in hand, no one would dare talk about the offense.

Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller are two power arms the Cards were in desperate need of.  Those two, to go along with Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte should be enough to keep most leads in hand the rest of the way.  If Motte can figure out a way to keep hitters off balance in one run games, the Cards should find their way into the 2012 postseason.

Chris Carpenter is on his way back to start on Friday, the Cardinals have a one game lead with the next 9 games against the worst 2 teams in baseball and Garcia shouldn’t have to start another road game in 2012.  It sounds like a winning streak to close the year out to me.

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