Series Preview: Central-Leading Cardinals Come To Citi Field

Jonathan RagusCorrespondent IJune 22, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 19:  Brian Schneider #23 of the New York Mets is met at home plate by teammates Gary Sheffield #10 and Ryan Church #19 after his second inning three run home run against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 19, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

When Mets fans think about the St. Louis Cardinals, the first flashback is to Game Seven of the 2006 National League Championship Series.  Yadier Molina has given the Cardinals a lead.  Adam Wainwright is on the mound throwing un-hittable curveballs in the ninth inning, and Carlos Beltran is frozen at the plate as strike three is called.

fixThe Cardinals went on to defeat the heavily-favored Detroit Tigers, while Mets fans saw their season end sooner than they thought.

The 2009 incarnation of the team is one that is fairly complete and arguably better than the 2006 version.

Their offense is led by the best hitter playing the game today, Albert Pujols.  He’s continued his remarkable consistentcy into this season, batting .329 with 26 home runs and 68 RBI.  Ryan Ludwick is only hitting .241 but is providing some power with 10 home runs and 36 RBI.

The rest of the offense does not stand out, but they’ve quietly pieced together support for their big hitters.  Skip Schumacher, Yadier Molina, and Brenden Ryan in his platoon with Tyler Greene are having very nice seasons at the plate.

The Mets will miss Adam Wainwright this time around, as the only starter they won’t face in the four-game set.  That is a fortuitous break, as Wainwright is the current ace of the staff.  Chris Carpenter is having a resurgence after an injury-riddled start and newcomer Brendan Thompson is having some early success as a starter.

On the other side of the coin, the Mets continue to get decimated more and more by injury.  Carlos Beltran will hit the 15-day disabled list, a report confirmed on Daily News Live at 5:00 p.m.

Winning only three of their last 10 games, the Mets are in the middle of a very difficult part of their schedule.  Without Beltran, Fernando Martinez returns to the majors in an effort to replace Beltran’s gold glove-caliber defense.  It is clear the pitching will have to step up and throw some solid performances.

Tim Redding gets the series going tonight at 7:10 p.m. against Todd Wellemeyer.  Wellemeyer is struggling the most out of all the Cardinals starters, so consider tonight’s game a must-win for the Mets.

Livan Hernandez will face Joel Piniero on Tuesday night.  Piniero, despite his losing record, is pitching pretty well.  Livan’s last start was very good, and he has been excellent for the most part this year.

Fernando Nieve has been an extremely pleasant and needed surprise for the Mets.  He will get the call in the third game on Wednesday night against youngster Brendan Thompson.  Thompson made a few appearances in May as a reliever but returned to the majors on June 2 as a starter.

The fourth and final game will feature a matchup of great pitchers, as Johan Santana squares off with Chris Carpenter.  Santana has had an off month, save for his last performance where some bad luck and a rain delay handed him his second-straight loss.  Carpenter has been nothing short of dominant since his return from injury.

Every win counts for the Mets to stay alive in the National League East race and fortunately, the Phillies have also been struggling lately.  They, too, have been hit with the injury bug, losing Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge.  Every game is important until the Mets can regain some semblance of health.

Enjoy the series.


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