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Cardinals-Nationals Preview 2009-05-02


Cardinals-Nationals Preview 2009-05-02
The St. Louis Cardinals were already playing great baseball before they arrived in the nation's capital. Unsurprisingly, their first two matchups with the Washington Nationals have only helped.

The Cardinals will try to move a step closer to a four-game sweep on Saturday afternoon, when the best and worst teams in the majors continue a series that has seen few surprises.

As strong as St. Louis (17-7) has looked to open the season, bursting out to the team's best start in 65 years, the Nationals have been equally dismal.

Washington (5-17) lost its first seven games and hasn't shown much improvement, displaying little punch offensively while its pitchers have been wildly inconsistent.

After going 1-5 against the Cardinals last year, the Nationals managed to stay with St. Louis for eight innings in the series opener Thursday, but they allowed five runs in the ninth to lose 9-4.

Friday night's game was lopsided from the start, as Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his second home run of the series in the first inning to spark his team to a 6-2 win. St. Louis has already opened up a four-game lead in the NL Central.

"The main thing is to go out and try to do as much damage as we can," said Pujols, who is 7-for-12 in his last three contests. "Anytime you can give a lead to the pitcher, he would love to take it. It gives him something to work on."

Pujols' blast was one of four homers by the heart of the Cardinals' order, as Joe Thurston, Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick also went deep. With help from Pujols' 29 RBIs, St. Louis leads the NL with 139 runs.

"I feel like the middle of the order has been doing good, but I feel like the whole lineup has been doing a good job," Ludwick said. "I think we're still one of the top offensive leaders in baseball. Combine that with the pitching we're getting and it's a deadly combination."

Joel Pineiro (4-0, 3.75 ERA) has been one of those strong hurlers for St. Louis, as the right-hander has won all four of his starts, allowing two runs in three of them.

He struck out just one but walked none in his last start, a 3-2 win over Atlanta Monday in which Pineiro tossed 6 2-3 innings.

"You trust your defense," Pineiro said. "That's why I throw that sinker no matter what time in the count, so they can hit it at somebody."

Washington hasn't been hitting much, averaging 2.8 runs in its last four games. One of the few bright spots offensively has been Ryan Zimmerman's current 20-game hitting streak, which is already a Nationals record.

Shairon Martis (2-0, 6.20) will be on the mound for Washington, looking to help prevent the team's fourth losing streak of at least three games this season. The 22-year-old right-hander has managed to avoid getting tagged with a loss in his first four starts, despite allowing 14 earned runs and walking 11 in 20 1-3 innings.

Martis gave up seven runs and four walks in five-plus innings Monday against Philadelphia, but didn't receive a decision in Washington's wild 13-11 loss.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 2, 2009

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