Series Preview

Philadelphia Phillies (45-28, NL East-1) @ St. Louis Cardinals (40-33, NL Central-1)

Pitching Match-Ups:
Roy Halladay (9-3, 2.56) vs. Kyle McClellan (6-3, 3.96)
Cliff Lee (7-5, 3.12) vs. Kyle Lohse (7-3, 2.88)
Roy Oswalt (4-5, 3.38) vs. Chris Carpenter (1-7, 4.47)
How the opposition rolls in-

The Cardinals now have yet another hole in their lineup due to injury–a three-time MVP sized hole. The lineup that started Opening Day against the San Diego Padres has been missing key players for large chunks of time all season. In terms of position players, it has most notably missed third baseman David Freese, who begins a rehab stint with Triple-A Memphis tonight in Des Moines against the I-Cubs, and Silver Slugger Matt Holliday, who only just recently returned from a hamstring injury that landed him on the disabled list. Pujols had heated up with the Midwestern weather, helping to fill the voids left by Freese and Holliday in his uniquely Pujolsian way. Now, for the first time in his career, the Cardinals will have to attempt to fill in for their once-in-a-generation franchise player over an extended period of time.

The historic nature of Pujols's first ten seasons has been well-documented. In traditional baseball stats, no player has ever started his career with ten consecutive seasons of at least a .300 batting average, at least 30 homers, and at least 100 RBI. One of the relatively unsung facets of Pujols's remarkable consistency has been his remarkable good health. In order to tally the benchmark seasonal counting stat totals that he has, Pujols had to be in the lineup. And he was. Pujols has totaled 700 PA three times, never dug into the batter's box less than 634 times in a given season, and averaged 678 PA per season through his first ten.

Since breaking into the big-leagues in 2001, Pujols has lost a grand total of 43 days to injury and never more than 19 in a season. It is likely that Pujols will surpass his highest single-season total for days missed to injury, if not more than double that total. A 2011 baseball card back that is as near-perfect as a baseball card back could be will give way to a 2012 card with a 2011 stat line reflecting a slow start and an injury that halts a statistical recovery fueled by the great Pujols hitting like the great Pujols.

The Outlook-
Two of the NL's year-in-year-out bests of late get together while everyone else does interleague. The Cardinals hold a half game lead, the Phils a four and a half game lead as they get here. Both come in a little down though. The Phillies lost their seven game win streak, and a series, in Seattle. The Cardinals lost Albert Pujols. The struggles of Chris Carpenter, himself in a contract year (possibly), may be weighing on him, but I like to watch him pitch. While the Phils throw three aces, the Cardinals other two pitchers are throwing well, especially Lohse. Lee's last start in St. Louis saw him walk a ton of guys. The Phillies kind of owe these guys a beating after struggling there earlier in the year.
The Prediction:
It's hard to call a series between these teams. Losing Pujols may galvanize them, but is more likely to depress them. I see Doc winning, then the Phils splitting the other two.