So far, so good for last year’s improbable World Series Champions.
The NL Central-leading Redbirds have looked very good without perennial all-star Albert Pujols anchoring their lineup. New skipper Mike Matheny’s job will be much easier if his team can score anywhere close to their current average of 6.2 runs per game and their starters continue to post a sub-2.00 ERA.
This veteran Cardinals lineup looks pretty much the same as the one we saw close out Texas last year in Arlington, except for the departure of Pujols and the offseason addition of veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran (.318 BA, .966 OPS) which allows Lance Berkman (.308 BA, .988 OPS) to play his more natural position at first base.
In a Wednesday getaway game, the Cards will wrap their 3-game series vs. the Reds at Great America Ballpark in Cincinnati with the first pitch set for 12:35 p.m. (ET). Cincy was a popular preseason pick by most talking heads to win the NL Central. St. Louis has not only emerged early on as a team to be reckoned with, the Cardinals also have made bettors happy at the betting window by cashing four of five as the underdogs heading into Tuesday’s action.
Lefty Jaime Garcia (1-0, 3.00 ERA) will take the ball for St. Louis coming off his solid 6-inning, 5-hit, 2-earned run performance in Milwaukee. Garcia settled down nicely after allowing two first inning runs.
Garcia relies on coaxing ground balls and should record his share of strikeouts (8.7 K/9 in 2011) vs. the free-swinging Reds. The southpaw will utilize the changeup 27 percent of the time vs. righties, which has dramatically increased his effectiveness against batters from that side of the dish.
St. Louis is 6-1 in Garcia’s seven career starts vs. the Reds.
Right-hander Johnny Cueto will look to close out Cincinnati’s brief homestand with a “W” before the Reds jet off to Washington to face the Nats. Cueto was spectacular for the Reds on opening day. picking up right where he left off last season in holding Miami to just three hits over seven scoreless innings.
Cueto is clearly the ace on this young starting staff but has struggled in his last two starts against the Cardinals allowing 13 hits and seven earned runs over 12 innings. However, the Reds won both of those games and finished 3-1 in Cueto’s four 2011 assignments vs St. Louis. The Reds are 8-2 in Cueto’s last 10 starts, including four scoreless appearances by the Dominican, one a complete game shutout.
Cincinnati’s offense has sputtered out of the gate with the exception of SS Zack Cozart (.500 BA), and all of the Reds starters other than Cueto have struggled in their initial outings posting a combined ERA of 6.58.
While St. Louis has been money on the road cashing 20 of its last 28 (4-1 this season), Cincinnati has won five straight starts by Cueto at Great American Ball Park. Garcia is just not the same pitcher away from Busch Stadium sporting a 4.61 road ERA, more than two runs higher than his 2.55 ERA at home.
The projected line on this contest is Cincinnati -155 with an 8½-run total.