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News » Cardinals-Nationals Preview 2009-05-02

Cardinals-Nationals Preview 2009-05-02

Cardinals-Nationals Preview 2009-05-02
It shouldn't have come as a surprise, but the St. Louis Cardinals have learned anew this weekend just how valuable Albert Pujols is to the offense.

After a scheduled day off, Pujols looks to help the Cardinals' offense get back on track Sunday in the finale of a four-game series against the major-league worst Washington Nationals.

Led by one of the most feared hitters in the game, St. Louis (17-8) boasts one of baseball's top offenses, averaging 5.6 runs.

With Pujols out of the lineup for the first time this season, the offense clearly suffered Saturday, finishing with five hits and no walks in a 6-1 loss. Shairon Martis threw the Nationals' first complete-game win since Aug. 15, 2006, when Pedro Astacio did it.

"We didn't test him very well," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

St. Louis' offense looked much different in the first two games of this series. Pujols homered in each as the Cardinals combined to score 15 runs in a pair of victories.

The two-time NL MVP is among the major league leaders in homers (nine), RBIs (29) and slugging percentage (.746), making him crucial to his team's success. Including Saturday's defeat, the Cardinals are 2-5 this season when Pujols does not have a hit.

Pujols looks to help the offense bounce back Sunday against Washington starter John Lannan (0-3, 4.61 ERA), whom he's 0-for-2 with a walk against in his career.

The Cardinals counter with Kyle Lohse (3-0, 1.97), who is trying to open a season 4-0 for the first time in his nine-year career.

Despite fighting an upset stomach Tuesday in Atlanta, Lohse allowed four hits and four walks with six strikeouts in six shutout innings of a 2-1 loss. The right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in three of his last four outings.

Lohse won both of his starts against the Nationals last season, giving up one run, eight hits and one walk over 12 innings in those contests. He is 2-1 with a 5.19 ERA in eight games - six starts - lifetime versus the Washington franchise.

While the Cardinals lost for just the third time in 12 games Saturday, the Nationals (6-17) won for the third time in their last 10.

Adam Dunn hit a three-run homer in the fifth inning after St. Louis' Chris Duncan - Pujols' replacement at first base - dropped a foul pop that would have been the last out of the inning.

"I've been horrible the past week or so," said Dunn, who was 1-for-10 with six strikeouts in his previous three games. "To be able to produce in that situation was obviously big for us and for a little confidence booster."

Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-4 with a double, extending his Nationals-record hitting streak to 21 games - also the longest in the majors this season. Zimmerman has hit safely in 22 of 23 games in 2009.

Washington has had little luck with Lannan on the mound, losing all five of his starts in 2009, and 22 of his last 27 dating back to last season.

Against Philadelphia on Tuesday, Lannan was tagged for five runs in the third inning and ended up yielding six runs - three earned - and nine hits in five innings of a 7-1 loss. The left-hander had allowed one run over 13 1-3 innings in his previous two starts.

He pitched well in two starts against the Cardinals last season - giving up four runs over 12 2-3 innings - but was backed by no runs of support and was saddled with the loss in each.

Lack of support continues to be a problem for Lannan, for whom the Nationals have failed to score more than three runs in any outing this season.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 2, 2009

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