June 30, 2008

Lohse could be Cards' first 10-game winner tonight

The Cardinals are happy to be back in St. Louis after a rough nine-game road trip, even if when they take the field at Busch Stadium tonight, it will be against the New York Mets.

Both the Mets and Cardinals have played .500 ball in their last ten outings.

Kyle Lohse (9-2, 3.94) will be looking for his tenth win of the season, and since Braden Looper didn't accomplish the feat yesterday, Lohse could be the first Cardinals pitcher to reach that plateau this year. To accomplish double-digit victories, Lohse will have to out-pitch the Mets' John Maine (8-5, 3.73).

Lohse will also have to rely upon a Cardinals' offense that has done better lately, but still isn't running on all cylinders. In Lohse's favor, the Mets' offense hasn't shown as tough as the Tigers or Red Sox or the recently hot Royals. Maine almost never gets deep into a ball game, always a plus for any opposing team.

But Lohse may have to go deep, himself, for the Cards to get off to a good start in their four-game set with the Mets. Tony La Russa used everyone from the bullpen yesterday, with the exception of Ron Villone and Mark Mulder. Just who La Russa can point to in the pen if needed may be a matter of each individual's assessment of whether they can pitch tonight, and if so, how much. The Cardinals' skipper may have wanted to pick a perfect time for Mulder to test his rehabbed shoulder at the major league level, but the left-hander may have to settle from jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Now in the second half of the season, each series will take on more significance, starting with the Mets. What happens in this four-game series could determine whether the Cards will be in a position to battle the Cubs in the very next series (3-game at Busch) for a direct route to first place in the NL Central. This week in Cardinals' baseball is obviously not the make or break moment, so to speak, but it will set a tone for how the second half might run as far as July momentum. Any way it goes, many major league eyes will be on St. Louis over the course of the next week.