Series in Preview:
The St. Louis Cardinals were a team that everyone figured would be struggling to find its identity at this point. After all, they had lost slugging first baseman Albert Pujols, and they couldn’t reasonably expect Lance Berkman to continue to produce at the level that he did last year, right?
Instead, the Cardinals are in the top three in MLB in several major offensive categories, like runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They also have a pitching staff that is showing off some impressive skill, with Lynn and Lohse looking like Bob Gibson reincarnated for the club.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are returning from a 10-game road trip that saw them lose the final two games in disappointing fashion. Despite the 5-5 mark, however, there were signs that things may be starting to look up. Miguel Montero has continued to hit the ball well as of late, Wade Miley has been a godsend in coming from the long relief role into the rotation to fill the void left by Daniel Hudson, and the team as a whole seems to be starting to click back into the mode of driving in runs via other means than the long ball.
Arizona’s Key to Success:
In order to have success against the Cardinals, the Diamondbacks are going to need several things to go right for them. For starters, their starting pitching has to be on top of its game. Saunders has been arguably the team’s best starter through the first month of the season, but he is in for a tough battle against a pitcher who has already won five games. Kennedy is obviously still the ace of the staff, and Miley has been stellar in his couple of starts in the rotation.
In addition to that, the team is going to need guys like Justin Upton to start hitting the ball better. Justin suffered mightily against the New York Mets over the weekend, so Kirk Gibson has to hope that home cooking will do him some good in this series. Ryan Roberts will also need to start hitting the ball better, and Jason Kubel, who looked overmatched quite a bit in the Mets series, will need to right the ship as well.
Fortunately for Arizona, they will not be facing a left-handed starter, so their woes against southpaws will not be put on painful display yet again for the home faithful.
Key Contributor to Watch: Paul Goldschmidt
Goldschmidt struggled mightily at the beginning of the season, but he is finally starting to show some signs of life lately. In the last week he has sported a .375 batting average to go along with his five RBI, and he has been showing some great skill with the glove lately as well. He dug out a couple of low throws in Sunday’s tilt with New York that stand out for their helpfulness to the cause, and if he can continue to flash the leather and make solid contact, he could be in for a tremendous series when his team needs him to have one.
-The Diamondbacks went 3-of-28 with runners in scoring position against the Mets over the weekend. Gibson had some thoughts on these struggles in his meeting with the press after Sunday’s game. [Tucson Citizen]
-Sidelined with an impingement in his right shoulder, Daniel Hudson is making strides in his recovery, and is planning on throwing from a mound on Tuesday. His return to the rotation seems like it is coming closer, but there’s no rush to get him back out there. [Arizona Republic]