The soon-to-be-ex World Champion St. Louis Cardinals begin a three game series at Citizens Bank Park this evening.
Led by their resident genius, manager Tony La Russa, so anointed yet again only this morning by no greater a baseball authority than Stephen A. Smith, the Cards have struggled all season with injuries and pitching woes and find themselves in third place in the NL Central, five games under .500 and 7.5 games back of Milwaukee.
According to reports out of St. Louis, Albert Pujols, who was unable to crack the NL lineup All Star lineup Tuesday night, has patched things up with his manager, who snubbed him. Unconfirmed reports also suggest he has just bought a bridge. Meanwhile, Pujols is mired in the longest home run drought of his illustrious career. Here's betting it rains sometimes during his visit to the Bank. Old friend Scott Rolen, who's departure from Philadelphia still draws commentary (including from this blogger) is having a sub-par season at the plate with only 4 home runs to date. Like many teams, the Cardinals have fought the injury bug, but there biggest problem has been pitching.
Speaking of pitching, the Phils send improbable emergency starter Kyle Kendrick to mound in search of his fourth win without a defeat since being called up from AA. Where would the Phillies be without this kid, one wonders? Somewhere south of .500 is the answer that leaps to mind. Lively discussions are taking place all over the Delaware Valley and beyond regarding the Phils' chances as the second half of the season gets underway. While most observers agree they have a shot at the NL East title because the Mets and Braves also have their problems, I suspect they have far fewer resources available to improve their situation than their chief rivals as the trade deadline approaches.
Much depends on the return and recovery of Tom Gordon and Brett Myers. Gordon's history over the last two seasons strongly suggests he won't hold up that long. Myers is new to this injury business and thus it is too early to tell when and if he'll come back and in what condition. Since Myers knows only one speed -- full bore ahead and angrily -- the odds of his re-injuring himself if he tries to return too soon are quite good.
If the Phils take two out of three from the Cards the optimists will be out in force come Monday morning. Anything less and we shall hear plenty from the glass half empty crowd.