The St. Louis Cardinals (87-62) continue to battle for the NL Central title with Pittsburgh whom as of Monday sit tied with only 13 games remaining in the 2013 MLB regular season. With all basically a foregone conclusion that both NL wildcards will come out of the Central, the importance of guaranteeing at least a first round Divisional playoff series are crucial heading down the stretch. This evening the Cardinals begin a 4 game road trip at the Colorado Rockies (68-82) just coming off of taking 2 out of 3 against Seattle. Tonight at Coors, Colorado is playing out the last few weeks of the campaign as NL West cellar-dwellers with nothing to play for except the potential roles of spoiler and pride.
What looked to be an interesting pitching matchup earlier in the week, the Rockies scratched Jorge De La Rosa (16-6 4.65) from tonight's start due to a sore left thumb. Collin McHugh (0-2 10.50) was acquired from the Mets in June and will make the spot start this evening. McHugh has pitched 12 innings between the Rockies and Mets over 4 appearances, giving up 14 earned runs while striking out five and walking four. Tonight McHugh faces a St. Louis lineup who busted out of a weekend offensive funk to level Seattle 11-2 Sunday at Busch. The Cardinals lead the National League scoring nearly 4.8 runs per contest and are hitting .267 collectively despite their overall power numbers down as evident by their 116 HR. Matt Carpenter (.319 10 72) leads the Cards in batting and is 5th overall in the National League. Right behind him is Yadier Molina (.317 12 66) who recently just broke an 0 for 15 slump. Of course Molina led most of the season in hitting neck and neck with current leader Michael Cuddyer, but a sprained knee sidelined him about a month. Carlos Beltran (.302 23 78) also missed some time with a back injury but despite slowing down a bit at 36 wants to return next season as a full time player. Any way you slice it, the Cardinals have a stacked lineup also complemented by a surging Matt Holiday (.287 19 84) who has also battled injuries over the season, and Matt Adams (.268 14 44) who homered for the 3rd time over his last 5 games. The Rockies hope McHugh can turn in a more complete performance given the opportunity although it will likely be a challenge.
Countering McHugh for the Cardinals is Lance Lynn (13-10 4.23) who has lost 6 of his last 7 decisions on the road with a near 6.50 ERA. Lynn however did bounce back Wednesday in a 5-1 win over Milwaukee. The right-hander allowed one unearned run and struck out 10 in six innings looking to end the regular season sharp as the playoffs approach, Lynn faces a Rockies lineup who, like St. Louis is hitting .267 collectively averaging about 4.4 runs per contest. Given the elements of Coors Field and the balance from within the lineup, they have belted 149 HR in 2013. Cuddyer (.333 20 80) looks to hang on for another battling title leading Atlanta's Chris Johnson by 2 percentage points. Carlos Gonzalez (.302 26 70) may opt for offseason surgery to repair his injured ring finger and likely would have neared or surpassed career marks if he stayed healthy. Troy Tulowitzki (.314 22 73) is battling soreness in his legs but has raised his average to .314 and will look to end the season on the upside. Willin Rosario (.291 21 78) has done a great job behind the plate proving to be a power threat in the middle of the lineup. Noan Arenado (.270 10 50) just returned to the lineup last week after suffering from a sore thumb and has featured nicely at the hot corner. This will be the final season for 40 year old Todd Helton (.244 13 52) as the first basemen announced he will retire following a 17 year career.
We get a bargain of a price this evening with a pre-humidor type line. St. Louis looks to build on yesterday's Mariner's carnage at a ballpark which in the high dry elevational air gives the ball plenty of carry to all fields especially right and right center where there is ample real estate. The Cardinals have plenty of depth in their lineup capable of producing numerous rallies at the hands of inexperienced pitchers like McHugh. On the other hand, Lynn continues to struggle and may need some run support. No lead is safe at Coors and while Colorado does not sport full personnel, they do have power hitters who can score runs on you in a flash. Best of luck however you play!