May 7: Cardinals (18-11) @ Pirates (13-15)
It’s good to be back in the press box if for no other reason that I was getting really antsy being stuck in bed all day yesterday. Yes, my “day off” on Thursday was not planned. That flu that was going around the clubhouse… I got it. I’ll be sure to thank Ryan Church later.
I’ve got a trusty box of kleenex at my side to help get me through tonight. Let’s hope.
The good news is that I appear to be the last of the flu-stricken around here, so nine healthy players should be taking the field tonight for Pittsburgh.
PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES:
- Jeff Clement is out of the lineup for the third straight game and fourth time in the last five games. He has been working on simplifying his approach at the plate (less movement, not so defined a rotation in his swing) and the plan ahead of time was not to have Clement play while he made the adjustments. Manager John Russell estimated that after another two or three days of Clement working on these changes, he’d be ready to get back into the lineup.
- Clement’s absence has benefited Church, who is in the lineup for the seventh straight game. Church has reached base safely in all nine games he’s played at PNC Park. He comes in, too, with homers in two of his last three games.
- It might not matter what Jeff Karstens does in his start tomorrow because it sounds like the Pirates are going to stick with Brian Burres as their fifth starter once Ross Ohlendorf returns. Said Russell: “In my opinion, I think he deserves an opportunity to continue to pitch.” Because Ohlendorf will step into Burres’ spot in the rotation, that would likely push Burres’ next start until next Friday. Russell mentioned the possibility of Burres making a relief appearance during that layoff to stay fresh.
- One more notable item about Burres’ performance on Thursday… Burres became just the second Pirates pitcher over the last five seasons to win consecutive games while making a scoreless appearance of at least five innings. The other? Karstens, in August 2008.
- Triple-A right-hander Brad Lincoln made a strong start for Indianapolis last night. In six innings, he allowed one earned run on six hits and two walks. Lincoln struck out seven. Pedro Alvarez had a three-run homer in the 9-2 win.
- The Cardinals come to town having lost three straight (to the Phillies), though a look up and down their lineup is a reminder of how much success some of these St. Louis hitters have had recently against Pittsburgh. Seven current hitters batted .300 or better against the Pirates last season: Albert Pujols (.463), Matt Holliday (.455). Skip Schumaker (.395). Khalil Greene (.375), Ryan Ludwick (.349), Jason LaRue (.333), David Freese (.333).
- Ludwick has hit safely in 21 of his last 25 games against the Pirates. Pujols has 23 career home runs and a .389 average at PNC Park,
- On the pitching end, Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter has a 10-game winning streak against the Pirates, dating back to June 29, 2004. In all, he is 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 13 career starts against Pittsburgh.
- Mound opponent Zach Duke is 3-1 with a 3.05 ERA in seven career home starts against St. Louis. The key for Duke to break out of his recent funk? “I think more consistent with his sinker, more consistent with his spots,” said Russell. “I think the last few games he’s gotten away from that a little bit. He has lost some of his consistency down. I think he’s ready to make that adjustment.”
- Before tonight’s game, Ohlendorf and reliever Joel Hanrahan will honor eight area high school students who are Captains of the Pittsburgh Action Team. This team has raised awareness about the importance of community service and volunteering.
- While I was out on Thursday, the Pirates announced that they had signed LHP Wilson Lee (Australia). The 18-year-old will play in the Major League Baseball Australian Academy this year.
- Aki Iwamura (2B)
- Andy LaRoche (3B)
- Andrew McCutchen (CF)
- Garrett Jones (1B)
- Ryan Doumit (C)
- Ryan Church (RF)
- Lastings Milledge (LF)
- Ronny Cedeno (SS)
- Zach Duke (LHP)
- Skip Schumaker (2B)
- Ryan Ludwick (RF)
- Albert Pujols (1B)
- Matt Holliday (LF)
- David Freese (3B)
- Yadier Molina (C)
- Colby Rasmus (CF)
- Chris Carpenter (RHP)
- Brendan Ryan (SS)
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