I-55 Series, pt. II

Tony La Russa is in his 11th season as Cards skipper. It doesn't seem like he's been around that long, but the dates don't lie. The numbers don't lie, either: over that time frame the Cards have beaten the Cubs 51 times in St. Louis, against only 21 losses. By my math, that's a winning percentage of 71 per cent. Not too shabby. But last year the Cubs finally changed their luck at Busch II, posting a 5-3 record there and a 10-6 record overall against the Cards.

Away from Busch, the Cards-Cubs series has tilted distinctly in the Cubs favor. Over the past five-plus seasons, the Cards have gone 19-30 at Wrigley. Two weekends ago, the Cubs continued the abuse in the Windy City. It wasn't just that Chicago swept St. Louis in a three-game series, it was how poorly the Cardinals played. The pen surrendered leads and game-changing home runs; the defense resembled a Little League team at times; and Albert the Great went 1-9 at the plate. It was a tough series to watch, and possibly their worst performance in a series since the '04 World Series. (On the bright side, maybe this year we're getting our disgraceful performances out of the way in April, instead of October.)

The Cubs are off to a solid start this year, just a half-game behind the first-place Astros. But the Cards are just a half-game off their pace in the tight NL Central standings. If the Cubs are swept this weekend, it will help to silence the bravado of Cubs fans, whose confidence already took a big hit when Derrek Lee broke his wrist earlier this week. (I'm actually saddened a tad by their loss. Derrek Lee in the lineup makes for better TV.)

As for the Cards, this will be a big series for Isringhausen, as he needs to build upon two positive outings and settle some nerves amongst fans. It's probably an even more significant series for Juan Encarnacion, who has but 1 RBI on the season and has stranded around 30 runners on base. I thought Juan would be a bust when we signed him to a ridiculous three-year deal, and sure enough, he's doing his best Tino Martinez impersonation so far, laying a goose egg in box score after box score.

Edmonds is still searching for a break-out series, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be it. He's our only legitimate power threat from the left side -- I was surprised the team failed to address this concern in the offseason -- and hence is crucial to the success of our lineup in the long haul. His bum shoulder is shot up with cortisone, which doesn't inspire great confidence from me considering the team's recent shoulder woes (Rolen) and cortisone failures (Walker). If this turns out to be a chronic problem -- and considering Edmonds isn't likely to see much rest this year it likely will -- we could be in for a diminished season from our Gold Glover. A .475 slugging percentage from Jim doesn't seem too unlikely given his health woes and age. And that just isn't going to get the job done in the four-hole. But Jim has played through nagging injuries throughout his Cardinals career, and done so successfuly. So I'll try to remain optimistic that the streaky slugger will find more silver in his bat.

An interesting side note before I wrap this post up: For the first time in several seasons, the Cards feature no ex-Cubbies on their roster, after trading away Burger King and passing on re-signing Julian Tavarez and Mark Grudzielanek. Laugh all you want, but I'm a stern believer in the ex-Cub curse. This year, the Cubs feature ex-Card Mabes on their bench. I'm not certain if there are any ex-Card curses that I should know about, but we'll find out soon, as Mabes will likely see a lot of time at first base now that Lee is on the DL.

Game times:
Friday - 7:10
Saturday/Sunday - 1:15

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