MLB Weekend Preview: Cardinals Vs. Brewers (And More!)

ST. LOUIS, MO - : Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run home run against the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 5-4 in 12 innings. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Baseball tends to happen every weekend, and it's usually awesome because it's baseball. That's more of a law of physics than a tautology, but call it what you will. There's another slate of games to follow this weekend, and here are three of the very best series ...

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Florida Marlins
It’s not that hard to lose eight straight games like the Marlins have. The trick is to play really poorly. But to lose seven of those eight by a single run? That takes a certain kind of artisan's craft that you can’t find just anywhere. Without looking, here’s what I’m guessing happened for the Marlins to lose seven straight one-run games:

  • Blown save
  • Costly error
  • Game with six double plays
  • Game where they were blooped to death
  • Ball hitting a sprinkler head
  • Blown calls from an umpire who is really a police officer trying to protect the Queen
  • Some sort of hit from Dan Uggla, which would be his second or third of the year.

The Marlins aren’t a bad team. With a healthy and right Hanley Ramirez, they’re a well-constructed team, actually. While one-run losses are brutal to watch, they probably don’t mean the Marlins are worse than they appeared just two weeks ago. It’s just a team that hasn’t caught any breaks lately.

It’d almost be fair to say that losing two of three from the Pirates, as the Diamondbacks did, says something more about a team than a bunch of one-run losses, except these are the new, almost-.500 Pirates, so we’ll let it slide. The Diamondbacks are still just a game behind the Giants, and they’re doing it with pitching and hitting. The biggest surprise might not be hatchet-throwing rookie sensation Josh Collmenter, but rather that Joe Saunders has returned to the land of the living. It’s been over a month (seven starts) since Saunders has been knocked out before the sixth inning, which was something of a habit in the first leg of his Arizona career.

Probable pitchers
Fri: Joe Saunders v. Anibal Sanchez
Sat: Ian Kennedy v. Javier Vazquez
Sun: Daniel Hudson v. Brad Hand

 

Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The 2008 Blue Jays were something of a pitching juggernaut. The 2010 Blue Jays were a home-run factory. Put them together, and you would have had the 2001 Mariners, if not the '27 Yankees. The 2011 Blue Jays are kind of a poor man’s hybrid: they have some of the pitching from 2008 (mixed with poor luck and injuries) mixed with some of the offense from 2010 (mixed with poor luck and injuries). The result is a good team, though it’d be nice to see what they could do with a fixed Travis Snider and Brett Cecil.

The Red Sox were eliminated in the first week of the season, which was a crushing blow to their fans, but that hasn’t stopped the Red Sox from now paradoxically leading the AL East as they were supposed to do all along. Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford did a Dudley Moore/Kirk Cameron thing, which was confusing at first but is now working out just fine.

On May 30, 2009, David Ortiz went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. His season line at that point was .185/.286/.283. Who here would have put a $5 bill on the idea that Ortiz would still be in the majors right now, much less going nuts and hitting .326/.394/.612? The scariest note for AL pitchers: his strikeout/walk ratio is about 1:1, which is where it usually is when he’s finishing in the top five of the MVP voting.

Probable pitchers
Fri: Clay Buchholz v. Jo-Jo Reyes
Sat: John Lackey v. Brandon Morrow
Sun: Jon Lester v. Kyle Drabek

 

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee has quietly turned into one of the toughest places to play in baseball. The new math:

Good team in yucky ballpark ≠ strong attendance (Rays)
Bad team in fantastic ballpark ≠ strong attendance (Pirates)
Good team in fantastic ballpark = strong attendance (Brewers) [ed.--fantastic ballpark, really?]

The Brewers are trying to capitalize on that for the long-term too, locking up Ryan Braun and Corey Hart in gestures of good faith. The gamble to go all-in this season, with a barren minor-league system and both Prince Fielder and Kielbasa approaching free agency, was inspired and gutsy, so it’s good to see it pay off. The offense has been as productive as projected, but there’s even room to grow. Yuniesky Betancourt is more of a .650 OPS guy, and he’s only at .595 now. If he gets it going, look out.

And, oh, rumors of Albert Pujols’s demise were greatly exaggerated. He’s at the point now where his low batting average on balls in play is starting to look suspiciously like there was a little bit of bad luck behind his slow start. His walk rate is down, but you can bet that if he keeps up the home run pace, he’ll be pitched around just as much as ever. And, really, that’s what the Cardinals were missing -- another way to score runs. If half of the surprising things about the Cards -- Kyles Lohse and McClellan, Allen Craig, the old Lance Berkman -- are legit, then the recently improved play of Pujols and Chris Carpenter will make the Cardinals one of the scariest teams in baseball.

Probable pitchers
Fri: Jaime Garcia v. Chris Narveson
Sat: Kyle Lohse v. Zack Greinke
Sun: Jake Westbrook v. Shaun Marcum


Mug shots of the week

Grham_medium

MLB.com is pretending like they don’t have a picture of A’s starter Graham Godfrey. What you’re looking at, though, is the ethereal black void into which A’s pitchers have been sucked, where they will remain for 1,000 years to think about what they’ve done. And Edwin Jackson is trying not to laugh because he’s a sick freak.

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