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Sunday Night MLB Preview

   by ASA - 08/10/2008

Tonight the baseball world will focus on the Sunday Night game on ESPN between the Cardinals and Cubs. After winning the first game of the series 3-2 the Cubs and Ace starter Carlos Zambrano were lit up yesterday by the Cards 12-3. Ironically, I had my son’s All-Star 8-year old team from the Madison, WI area in Freeport, IL playing as the St Louis Cardinals versus a team of 8-year old All-Star Cubs from the Freeport area. In fitting fashion the Little Cardinals won their game 14-7 very similar to the results of yesterday’s Major league game. If you are a true baseball fan and ever in the Freeport area be sure to stop at the Little Cubs Field which is an exact replica of Wrigley Field (vines included) and designed for wiffleball or 8 and under baseball. It’s an amazing field that brings out the kid in everyone. Now on to the ‘big boys’.

Tonight’s Cards versus Cubs game will have much more significance than my son’s game yesterday as these two clubs are battling for the top spot in the N.L. Central. The Cubs currently stand in first place of the Central with a 70-47 record, which includes an incredible 44-17 home mark. St. Louis is third in the division, 6-games back, with a 65-54 record. Sandwiched between the two teams in the division chase are the Brewers with a 66-51 record.

St. Louis likes its chances for a series win tonight as they send right handed Chris Carpenter to the mound. Carpenter will make his third start of the season since returning from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, and thus far, Carpenter looks a lot like the pitcher of old. He's allowed just one run in nine innings, striking out four and walking only two. Carpenter tends to be at his best against the Cubs with a 7-2 record and an ERA of just 3.07 in 13 career starts against Chicago, averaging seven full innings per start in those games. So even though the Cubs will counter with All-Star Ryan Dempster, there's nobody St. Louis would rather have on the mound for a Sunday night ESPN game and rubber match than Chris Carpenter.

Carpenter will have his hands full though as he faces one of the best lineups in all of baseball. The Cubs are the #1 team in the league in average hitting .280 as a team, 2nd in RBI’s, 7th in home runs, 2nd in slugging and first in on base percentage. Against right handed pitching the Cubs as a team are hitting .277 on the year, .296 at home.

The Cubs will counter with righty Ryan Dempster who is 12-5 on the season with a 2.93 ERA. Dempster should be well-rested for this start. He matched his shortest outing of the season, five innings, in Monday's loss to Houston, due to a rain shortened game. The Cubs-Astros game on Monday was halted by a thunderstorm at the start of the sixth inning. They played two more innings before it was called for good. Dempster gave up two runs against the Astros to fall to 10-2 at home in 2008. He has yet to face the Cardinals this season but is 2-2 the past three seasons against the Cards with a 3.66 ERA. Dempster has had very good success against the best stick in the Cardinals lineup Albert Pujols the previous three seasons’ limiting the Cards slugger to just 1 home run in 17 at bats and a .235 average.

As does Carpenter, Dempster will have his work cut out for him facing the St. Louis lineup. The Cards are 5th in the league in team batting average at .277 and rank in the top ten in the league in slugging, home runs, on base percentage and RBI’s. St. Louis loves to face right handed pitchers also as they have a team batting average of .284 on the season, .316 their last ten games overall.

So who will come out on top today in the third and final game of this series? The Cubs have the second best home record in all of baseball but the Cardinals haven't had a losing road trip since the first week of May. Both send two of their very best right-handed starters to the mound and both have one of the best lineups in all of baseball. I won’t officially make a call on this game but I would expect a higher scoring game today between these two teams. Combined they have a 12-7-1 ‘over’ trend running with both clubs hitting just under .300 their last 10 games each. In the first two games of the series these two teams have combined for 42 total hits and I expect that hot hitting to continue tonight. Enjoy the game!

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