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Pirates-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-09


Pirates-Cardinals Preview 2009-04-09
The Pittsburgh Pirates hadn't won a season series in St. Louis this decade prior to taking five of nine meetings there in 2008.

With another victory, they'll have a great head start toward doing it again.

The Pirates will try to leave Busch Stadium with their third win in four games Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals when they face former NL Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, who has dominated Pittsburgh in his injury-plagued career.

The Pirates (2-1) were a dismal 23-42 in St. Louis from 2000-2007, but edged the Cardinals 5-4 in the season series at Busch last season thanks in large part to an offense that produced 53 runs.

Pittsburgh only has six games in St. Louis to worry about this season, but given its performance there thus far, it may wish it had a few more. The Pirates scored four runs to cap a ninth-inning comeback victory on Monday, then after a loss Tuesday pounded out 17 hits Wednesday in a 7-4 win.

Pittsburgh's looked good early on thanks primarily to three unexpected sources of offense - leadoff hitter and left fielder Nyjer Morgan, and the middle infield combination of Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson.

Morgan was expected to be the team's center fielder last season before he wound up being replaced by All-Star Nate McLouth, and Morgan drove in a total of seven runs in 160 at-bats. He already has three this season and is 6-for-15 (.400).

Sanchez, the NL's 2006 batting champion, saw his average fall to a career-low .271 last season, but he's already had three multi-hit games, including a four-hit game Wednesday.

"Freddy can hit," manager John Russell said. "He went through a lot last year, didn't feel quite right I don't think all year long. I think he was really anxious to get the season going."

Wilson, meanwhile, also had four hits and drove in two - his second multi-RBI game.

The Pirates may be hard-pressed to come up with another stellar offensive effort against Carpenter (0-1, 1.76 ERA in 2008), who's 9-1 with a 2.24 ERA in his career against Pittsburgh.

He hasn't, however, faced the Pirates since 2006. The right-hander won the NL Cy Young in 2005 and had another solid year in 2006, but he's started just four games since then - three of which came in last season's second half before he was shut down because of a shoulder issue.

His extensive history of arm trouble came up again in the offseason, when he had surgery to transpose a nerve on his pitching elbow. He had a minor setback in late March when he suffered a mild left calf strain, but he appears ready to go Thursday following a spring that included a stretch of 16 2-3 scoreless innings.

"It would be a huge plus for us if he takes the ball regularly from now until Halloween," manager Tony La Russa told the Cardinals' official Web site. "He's as good as anybody pitching in any starting rotation anywhere."

Wilson is 1-for-23 in his career against Carpenter.

Ross Ohlendorf (0-3, 6.35 in 2008) will get the ball for Pittsburgh, and although he struggled after coming over from the New York Yankees in July, he solidified a spot in the rotation in spring training. Ohlendorf went 1-1 with a 2.55 ERA in 24 2-3 innings, walking just two.

Ohlendorf's biggest concern will be first baseman Albert Pujols, who singled Wednesday to extend his streak of safely reaching against the Pirates to 20 games. He's hit .452 (33-for-73) with three homers and 13 RBIs in that stretch.

Pujols has never faced Ohlendorf.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 9, 2009

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