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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
Basis Function: Daubechies4

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

May 31st, 2009 Picks

Ahh, fuck. 1-1-0 today after Brian Fuentes gave up a 3 run homer with 2 outs to send the game into extra innings. Angels lose, my streak ends, and on to another one.

Stults couldn't quite make it through the 4th inning and the Cubs scored slowly and steadily to win this game 7-0.

Matt Palmer and Felix Hernandez both pitched well enough to deserve to win, but neither of them will be credited with one tonight. Palmer had a one run lead staked to his performance after he pitched 7 shut out innings. Darren Oliver retired the batters 1-2-3 in the 8th and the Angels added a couple of insurance runs for good measure. Closer Brian Fuentes allowed two men on base and with two outs gave up a 3 run homer to Javier Lopez to blow the save. The Mariners scored again in the 10th inning and could not get it back in the bottom of the inning to go down 4-3. And so on to the picks.

1) Sampdoria @ Palermo - Palermo win
2) Justin Rose vs. John Rollins - Rose cards a lower front 9 score
3) Maria Sharapova vs. Na Li - Li
4) Washington vs. Georgia - Washington
5) Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays - Boston
6) Minnesota Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays - Minnesota
7) Jimmie Johnson vs. Carl Edwards - Johnson has a better finishing position
8) Tim Clark or Jason Day vs. Rest of Field - Clark or Day win the tournament
9) Alabama vs. Florida - 5 runs or fewer
10) Seattle Mariners @ Los Angeles Angels - Los Angeles
11) Pittsburgh Penguins @ Detroit Red Wings - Detroit
12) Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs - Chicago
13) Georgia vs. Washington - Washington

Il rosanero will try for 59 points with a victory over Coppa Italia runners up Sampdoria today at the Renzo Barbera where they have collected 52 of a possible 64 points with a 14-0-4 (W-D-L) record this season. As always, at least for the larger European leagues, goal.com has a nice preview of the match where they predict a 2-2 draw. Part of the reasoning for that comes from the injury concerns facing Palermo, where they will have to do without defender Cesare Bovo, midfielder Fabio Liverani, and Uruguyan striker Edison Cavani. All three players started 27 matches or more for the club. Sampdoria will be missing Pietro Accardi in the backfield, which may or may not be a bad thing considering he has been a major component of a defense which has conceded 29 goals in 17 away matches.

Antonio Cassano has been left off the Italian team so he may have a big game with a chip on his shoulder and to increase his value as he looks to move on at the end of this season. It will be interesting to see how Palermo's Simon Kjaer does marking him. Sampdoria's defense has been porous all season but it was enough to take them all the way to penalty kicks in the Coppa Italia final so they can put the wall up when they have to. Palermo are heavy favorites in the sportsbooks to win outright, around 50%, and I think they can pull off a win here, but with Cassano up front for Sampdoria it is risky to predict they will not pull off the draw. To ease your mind just remember that Palermo have not drawn at home in 19 matches in all competitions this season.

2) Justin Rose has had a slow start to his season on the PGA Tour. After taking time off in January and February to be with his pregnant wife, he returned to the tour as soon as she gave birth. Since then he's made the cut in 6 of 9 events and has racked up $325,000 from it with 3 top 25 finishes. John Rollins appears to be hitting his stride in his 11th year earning $1.4 million dollars from 14 events thanks largely to 2nd place finishes at the Buick Invitational and The Honda Classic in February and March. He has hit a bit of a rough patch in the past month, finishing no higher than 37th in that time.

At the Colonial Country Club this year it has been Justin Rose who has performed better on the front 9 of the course. Clicking on the image to the right one can compare the two players' scorecards. As they are paired together
Rose's Scorecard
Rollin's Scorecard

Rose has carded lower front 9 scores in each of the first three rounds.
for the final round they have performed similarly overall, but Rose has carded the lower front 9 score for all three rounds. Rose has carded birdies on five separate holes with at least two in each round while Rollins
has birdied only three of the holes so far, with two or fewer birdies in all three rounds. Neither player has bogeyed much on the front 9 so their ability to birdie has been important in determining their overall score on the holes. In the past five years at this event Justin Rose has also been the better performer, typically. His best finish was tied for 13th in 2005 while Rollins achieved his top finish in 2007 tied for 24th. On the front 9 Rose has carded 7 of 11 rounds under par in those 5 years, with a median score of -2 while Rollins has carded only 6 of 14 rounds under par with a median score of even par. I think Rose may have been distracted by his newly born child but will prove to be the more successful golfer by the end of the Tour this year. His performance at this event this year and years previous suggest he will card a lower front 9 score today and I am not of mind to disagree. Previews of the holes can be found here.

12) The Chicago Cubs will try to hand the Los Angeles Dodgers their first three game losing streak of the season when they play at Wrigley Field tonight. The Dodgers took the first game 2-1 before losing the next two and have managed to score only 3 runs total in the series. Their hitting has gone away (.194 batting and .258 slugging) against the Cubs' pitching staff of Wells, Lilly, and Dempster and the going won't get any easier as they face Sean Marshall.

Sean Marshall and the Cubs seek to hand the Dodgers their first three game losing streak of the season.
Marshall has had a good start to the season posting a 3.70 ERA and 1.28 WHIP through 7 starts an some relief appearances. In his last start Marshall limited the Pirates to 1 earned run though he did not go deep into the game pitching only 5 innings. Marshall has not been able to get into the 7th inning in a single game this season as he is limited on his pitch count and has not been very economical with those pitches.

The Dodgers will start Eric Milton who has been doing well since his return from Tommy John surgery (arm ligament replacement). Milton posted a 2.83 ERA through 7 starts at AAA Albuquerque giving up 11 earned runs, and has a 3.00 ERA from his two starts in the Majors this season. He will have to take on a surging Chicago Cubs offense that is batting .293 and slugging .467 against the Dodgers in this series. While sluggers such as Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano have not been stellar by any means other players, such as last years NL Rookie of the Year Geovany Soto, and Mike Fontenot, are picking up their games after slow starts to the season. In Fontenot's case the slow start was due to starting the season on the bench, with injuries bringing him into the starting lineup.

I think Sean Marshall will continue to be a strong starter, but in today's game I expect players like Juan Pierre, Orlando Hudson, and Andre Ethier to make things rough for him. It would be a good start for him to give up 3 runs while going 5 innings. Milton should also have a good game, but will also be limited in pitch count so we should see the bullpens in play for at least 3 innings tonight. I think the Dodgers will have an advantage in that case, but if Soriano, and Derrek Lee can get back on track with their power hitting that advantage will be neutralized. I really think either team would be a good pick tonight. Though I do feel the Dodgers are more likely to perform better on offense I think the Cubs have a greater advantage playing at Wrigley Field.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30th, 2009 Picks

2-1-0 today. Though the Dodgers lost my 5 game streak I got back two with the Blue Jays and Giants. I really wish the Azarenka match had not been pushed so far back it had to be suspended due to darkness. I would have taken that pick over the Dodgers any day.

Chad Billingsley and Chris Lilly both had terrific starts in this game as the score was level 0-0 after 6 innings. Matt Kemp hit a home run in the top of the 7th but the Cubs got the run back and one more in the bottom of the inning. The scoring stopped there and the Cubs took this game of the series 201.

The Toronto Blue Jays kept pace with the Red Sox for the first four innings then posted 5 runs on Tim Wakefield in the bottom of the 5th. It would prove to be enough as they held on 6-3.

Joel Piniero walked his eighth batter of the season in the first inning and gave up two runs from two hits to put St. Louis in a hole early. San Francisco added two more runs in the fourth inning, Piniero's last of the game. The Cardinals' bullpen performed admirably but Matt Cain proved too much for St. Louis and the Giants went on to win 4-2. So on to the picks!

1) Corey Pavin vs. Bo Van Pelt – Pavin cards a greater or equal number of birdies
2) Gefle IF @ Trelleborgs FF – Trelleborgs FF win
3) Georgia vs. Missouri – Georgia
4) Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays – Toronto
5) Joey Logano vs. Jason Leffler – Logano has a better finishing position
6) Arizona vs. Alabama – Arizona
7) Holes Under Par Carded By Steve Stricker: 6 or fewer vs. 7 or more – 6 or fewer
8) Minnesota Twins @ Tampa Bay Rays – Tampa Bay
9) Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs – Chicago
10) Michigan vs. Georgia - Michigan
11) Houston Astros @ Pittsburgh Pirates – Houston
12) Pittsburgh Penguins @ Detroit Red WIngs – Pittsburgh
13) San Diego Padres @ Colorado Rockies – San Diego
14) Cleveland Cavaliers @ Orlando Magic – Cleveland
15) Seattle Mariners @ Los Angeles Angels – Los Angeles
16) Arizona State vs. Alabama - Alabama

1) Corey Pavin is a 49 year old golfer who was one of the top 10 in the world in the late 80's through the late 90's whose last Tour win came in 2006. This year he has failed to make the cut in 9 of the 13 tournaments he's participated in and has only made $154,000 to date.

Pavin celebrates after sinking a putt.
He is currently tied with Bo Van Pelt at one under par through the second round, 13 strokes behind the leader. Van Pelt has had a much better Tour this year, though not great by any means, making the cut in 9 of 13 events, and earning $598,000 from 2 top 10 finishes in them.

In terms of success at this event Pavin still outpaces Van Pelt whose best finish in the past five years was 5th place in 2004. Pavin has three top 10 finishes at Colonial Country Club, 6th in 2005, 3rd in 2006 and 2nd in 2008, a year in which Van Pelt finished tied for 70th place. Each player has carded the same number of birdies (five) so far, but Van Pelt has three of those on the front nine, while Pavin has only one birdie on the first nine holes.

Based on the number of holes hit over and under par the front 9 is the more difficult half of the course, with holes 5, 3, and 4 being the most difficult of the course and holes 9, 8, and 7 rounding out the top 10 most difficult holes. Based on their performances on this more difficult side of the course so far this year neither player seems likely to card more than three birdies in the third round, especially considering the increase in difficulty that comes with new pin placements and tee arrangements. Looking at their stats one sees Van Pelt has a birdie average 0.81 better than Pavin so far this year, which is an average of about 1 extra birdie every other 9 holes played. It's a fairly large difference, given tour averages range from around 3.00 to 4.50, but not much over the course of 9 holes. I think neither player will hit birdie that often, but with Pavin being the more successful of the two on the course in recent times I actually like his chances to card more birdies straight up, with the draw being insurance. Previews of the holes can be found here.

8) After wrapping up a road trip at cursed Progressive Field where the Rays have lost 16 in a row to the Indians Tampa Bay got back on course with a 5-3 win at home over the Minnesota Twins. Tampa Bay will be starting David Price to try and take game two today, with all the expectations in the world staked on his performance.

David Price gets another chance to prove himself as a starter. Will he make the most of it?
Price was a terrific reliever for the Rays last season and in the playoffs, but the starting rotations struggles has seen him be called up to take on that role as well. In his first start of the year Price lasted all of 31/3 innings. Although he gave up only 2 earned runs it took him 100 pitches to record 10 outs as he walked 5 batters and struck out 6. He will need to work on throwing more strikes in this game as the Twins, with power hitters Mauer, Cuddyer, Morneau, and others, could make the damage too great for Tampa Bay to overcome should he place men on base.

Minnesota will counter with Francisco Liriano, a 25 year old left hander who is still looking for a return to form two years after surgery. He has been up and down all season, alternating shut down performances with `where'd-the-strike-zone-go?' outings. His last twoMIN 5 - 6 BOS(L)
MIN 4 - 7 CWS(L)
starts have seen him unable to control his pitches, something both he and his manager agree needs to be worked on.

I think Liriano will find that control, for this game at least, and be able to keep Tampa Bay from scoring more than 3 runs in 6 innings. He's generally followed poor outings with strong ones and I expect it to be the case here. Tampa Bay and Minnesota are both hitting around their average in the past three games so one side or the other could have a breakout performance, but I can see this being more a day for the pitchers. The x-factor will be David Price who is less tested in the starters' role. He has the talent to be a terrific starter, but he needs to work more on throwing strikes if his stuff is going to keep players from putting the ball in play and getting out. If he can last more than 4 innings without giving up too many runs then Tampa Bay will have a chance. Overall, I think Tampa Bay will play strong at home and Minnesota will struggle a bit more at the plate. Of course, with these teams' bullpens anything could happen.

13) The San Diego Padres attempt to get back to their winning ways against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field today. The Padres were 9-1 in their last 10 games before losing 3-0 yesterday to the Rockies.

Jason Hammel will try to keep the Friars of San Diego from belting out doubles all day long.
Colorado, currently 4.5 games back from San Diego and sitting at the bottom of the NL West, is just hoping to pick up wins where they can. With their bats providing little support recently (they are batting .198 and slugging .308 in their last three games) they will rely on Jason Hammel to have a superb outing today. Unfortunately for Colorado Hammel has not had much success home at Coors Field. On the road Hammel has an ERA of 1.64, but in the wide open spaces of Coors Field he has posted a 7.63 ERA in four career starts. ``I've looked at video, both on the road and at home,... Honestly, leaving pitches up is basically what's hurting me." Hammel is coming off a terrific outing against the Tigers in Detroit, but against the Padres things could be rough once again. San Diego are batting only .236 as a team this season they have a decent power rating, with 1.64 total bases per hit though they certainly failed to display that in their shut out yesterday. Hammel faced San Diego at Coors on April 27th earlier this season and had a difficult time, giving up 4 earned runs from 7 hits in only 3 innings.

Colorado have had their own troubles at the plate recently, batting .198 and slugging .308 in their last three games while scoring only 10 runs. San Diego will hope Josh Geer can compound those probelms. Geer, who has recorded a 4.91 ERA along with a very nice 1.21 WHIP in 6 starts this season, is also coming off a nice start limiting the Cubs to 1 earned run in 62/3 innings. Neither pitcher has shown much consistency this season, however, so I would not be surprised to see both teams break free of their hitting troubles tonight.

Overall, I think Hammel will continue his struggles at Coors park, not only because of its hitters nature, but also because of the defensive outfield put out by the Rockies. Hammel has conceded 7 unearned runs in 371/3 innings this season with the Rockies being a bit more error prone than the average team. They are also still recovering from a roster build up which included slugging bats, but did not take into account the speed required to defend a park like Coors Field. I think the Padres are better suited for it and as long as their bats wake up I think they will be able to outpace the Rockies in an offensive battle. Having Cliff Floyd return to the lineup won't hurt with that either. Considering the Padres' bullpen, which has contributed to San Diego winning a league leading 12 games decided by one run, has better numbers overall and in fielding independent statistics I have to give San Diego the advantage in a close game.

Friday, May 29, 2009

May 29th, 2009 Picks

1-0-0 today and so after breaking the '5' barrier I'll try and take 2 a day to get to 9 again. Then third tries the charm to get that 10 game streak. *crosses fingers*

Baltimore's David Hernandez had a decent start to his Major league career giving up only 1 earned run. He had some issues with walking batters, but was able to get out of most jams. Armando Galrraga appeared solid, pitching through 7 innings while giving up a total of two earned runs. Both teams had to work to get on base but it was in the 8th inning that Luke Scott hit his second home run of the game, a 3 run shot off of Perry, to more or less cinch the victory for Baltimore. Sherrill came on in the 9th and retired 1-2-3 to end the game. And so on to the picks.

1) Steve Stricker vs. Stewart Cink – Cink cards a lower front 9 score
2) Carla Suarez-Navarro vs. Victoria Azarenka – Azarenka
3) Brian Gay vs. Vijay Singh - Gay cards a lower second round score
4) Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs – Los Angeles
5) Clermont Foot @ Vannes OC – Vannes OC win
6) Detroit Tigers @ Baltimore Orioles – Detroit
7) Boston Red Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays – Toronto
8) Ron Hornaday Jr. vs. Kyle Busch – Busch has a better finishing position
9) Washington vs. Arizona State - Washington
10) Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets – Denver
11) Michigan vs. Florida - 8 runs or more
12) San Diego Padres @ Colorado Rockies – Colorado
13) St. Louis Cardinals @ San Francisco Giants – San Francisco

1) Steve Stricker has been having a terrific year, with 5 top 10 finishes, including a 2nd place finish at the Northern Trust Open in February and a 3rd place finish at the Bob Hope Classic, netting him nearly $2 million from 11 events.

Stricker reacts in frustration after missing a putt at Colonial while Cink celebrates. Will this scene be repeated?
Stewart Cink cannot boast the same kind of success. Aside from a 3rd place finish at the World Golf Championship Accenture Match Play event he has finished no higher than 24th and has missed the cut three times. His reward for these efforts has been a `paltry' $860,000. Cink has also underperformed at the Colonial, carding a 71 in the first round, especially compared to Stricker who is co-leader with a 7-under par 63.

Since 2004 Cink has more experience on the course, with 17 rounds played and Stricker with 11 rounds. Both players have a median front 9 score of -1 and each have carded only two front 9 scores over par. Cink's best front 9 was a -5 in the first round in 2006 while Stricker carded his best round yesterday, a -4 thanks in large part to his long range putting. Cink's worst score is +1, in 2004 and 2005, while Stricker carded his worst score of +2 in the second round of 2008. I wouldn't be surprised to see Stricker fall away from the leader position in this round, but he's been so much better than Cink all year I can't honestly recommend picking against him here. I do think Cink will have a better front 9 score with more experience on his side, but it's a long shot. Previews of the holes can be found here. The par 4 hole number 5 proved to be the most difficult of the day with less than half the field reaching the green in regulation. It could be a make or break hole for these two today.

A view of the green on hole #3, protected by bunkers.

2) 19 year old Victoria Azarenka is looking to continue her solid play this year, which has seen win her first premier tournament (over an injured Serena Williams) and climb to #9 in the Women's World Rankings. She has already achieved the pinnacle of success in mixed doubles play, winning the 2007 U.S. Open mixed doubles title and the same in the 2008 French Open.

Azarenka plays with a knee brace in the second round while Navarro calmly defeats her opponent to advance.

Her opponent in the third round is Carla Suarez Navarro who has gone through to the finals in one event this year, at Marbella, but has generally been exited through the second or first rounds. She lost to Azarenka earlier this year in straight sets, their only previous encounter.

Last year Azarenka made it through to the fourth round before losing to fourth seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova.

Victoria Azarenka looks to match her progress in last years French Open with a third round victory.
Navarro did one better, defeating the 26th seeded Flavia Pennetta in the fourth round only to be defeated herself by third seeded Jelena Janković in the quarterfinals. Azarenka is large favorite to win the match today (-200 or so to +130 for Navarro) and given her play this year I can see why. With her knee injury, however, she may not be as strong as she would be otherwise and a retirement looms as a larger and larger possibility the further she goes into the tournament. You can track the progress of the match with the widget up top or click here to see live scores from the Roland Garros site directly.

3) So far this year Brian Gay has three top 10 finishes, including a Tour victory at Harbour Town in April where he set the 72-hole Tour record at -20 and the Verizon Heritage margin of victory record at 10 strokes.

Vijay took a lot of flak in 2002 for saying the PGA Tour was designated for men to play, and make money, on.
He also has two other top 10 finishes on the Tour this year, earning him nearly $1.7 million from 13 events. Vijay Singh has had his difficulties as he missed three weeks on the tour near the end of January recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery and has been taking things easy as he recovers. He's missed the cut 4 out of 10 events since the surgery but appeared to be back on track with a 9th place finish at TPC Sawgrass three weeks ago. His 63 7-under par in the first round at the Colonial certainly seems to back up that assumption.

Singh himself credits part of that success to playing alongside Kenny Perry, saying: "I know the golf course, and Kenny was making a lot of shots as well, and we played off each other...." It's a good sign for Singh considering he hasn't played this event since the Annika Sorenstam incident. Singh levied harsh criticism at the tour and the sponsors for entering her into the Bank One Colonial (as it was known back then) saying that it took valuable spots away from men for whom the Tour was set up for. He's back and it appears the public has more or less forgiven him.

To the contrary, Brian Gay has been a regular at this event, playing every year from 2004 to present. In that time he has played 19 rounds, carding scores of 69 or better in 10 of them. He tied his best score, a 5-under 65, last year in the second round. His 10th place finish in 2008 was his best ever at Colonial. I fully expect both players to card low scores, below 68 at least, with the greens remaining soft after the rains a few days ago. With Singh having already carded his best score of the tournament in all likelihood and Gay yet to card his I have to favor Brian Gay in this matchup.

Preview the back nine.

4) The Los Angeles Dodgers struggled away from Dodger Stadium with Manny Ramirez in the lineup. Nearly 50 games into the season they have managed to find a way to win away without him. Los Angeles will go for their fifth straight win away from home after sweeping the Rockies in Colorado and taking the first game of the series at Wrigley Field. L.A. has been hitting the ball well in their past three games with a .305 batting average but only a .362 slugging average.

Can Billingsley and the Dodgers pull off another heart stopping victory at Wrigley Field?
Fortunately, they've managed to bunch together the multitude of hits leading to 17 runs scored in three wins. It's the Dodgers' pitching and fielding which has allowed them to win on the road, however, limiting their opponents to 8 runs in those three games. They'll need both strong pitching and strong batting in order to keep up with Chicago's hot bats

The Cubs had been slumping heavily, losing 8 in a row before picking up two wins against the Pirates. Including the loss to the Dodgers the Cubs are batting .330 with a .523 slugging average in their last three games. It was Randy Wolf's and Troncoso's pitching which limited the Cubs to one run in the last game and without it the Dodgers would surely have lost.

The Dodgers have placed Ohman on the disabled list leaving their bullpen 'short' with 7 men, but Broxton, Belisario, and Wade should all be available to pitch with Chad Billingsley hoped to go deep into the game. Billingsley has been superb for the Dodgers this year, posting a 6-2 record to go along with his 2.82 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He will be facing off against Chris Lilly today, who has been decent to say the least, with a 3.77 ERA and a stellar 1.10 WHIP. Lilly's ground ball to fly ball ratio is about half of Billingsley's so it's no surprise he's given up 10 home runs this season compared to Billingsley's 1, but it is surprising he's done so well keeping men off base. Credit the Cubs' fielding and Lilly's ability to throw strikes and avoid walking batters. With the Dodgers having not hit a single home run in their past three games they will be looking to take advantage of the long hits Lilly is prone to give up.

Both Billingsley and Lilly struggled a bitBillingsley - 6IP, 9H, 4ER, 6K, 1BB

Lilly - 6.1IP, 8H, 5ER, 4K, 2BB in their last starts, giving up 4 or 5 earned runs over 6 innings off of 8 or 9 hits. I think both pitchers will pitch near shut outs today and it will come down to the bullpens over a 1 or 2 innings, and clutch batting in the final inning. It should be close, but I think the Dodgers will have the lead going into the ninth, possibly from a home run earlier in the game, and will be able to hold on with Broxton pitching.


Keys for Denver: Stop whining about calls, take high percentage shots, and get big games from J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen.
It's Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and the Denver Nuggets face elimination for the first time this postseason. After the teams split Games 3 and 4 by getting away from the 'last-one-to-score-wins' motif of the series with Denver winning by 19 at home and the Lakers taking one at the Staples Center by 9. Bloggers for each team give their opinionsPickaxe N' Roll (DEN)

Lakers Nation (LAL) give their previews of the game with each side identifying attacking the basket and taking smart shots as keyes to the game.

From ``Lakers Nation'': The Lakers will have to control the tempo, the glass, get back in transition, and stop the dribble penetration as well as rotate out to three point shooters. The Lakers will need to slow Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups & Nene. Limit the impact of the explosive yet volatile J.R. Smith.

``Pickaxe N' Roll'' identifies 7 keys to the game, the most important of which being the rebounding battle. Looking at the box scores from Games 3 and 4 the offensive rebounding stats jump out. In their 19 point victory the Nuggets had a 20-9 edge on the offensive glass, but only a 14-10 edge in their Game 5 loss. Clearly, the Nuggets either need to start making the smarter shots or completely dominate the offensive boards to pick up a win in this game. Finally, Magic Johnson and Brent Barry chime in with their reasons for why this series will go to a Game 7. Essentially, home court advantage will enable Denver to make the plays they need to make to win.

13) The St. Louis Cardinals hope they can somehow find a way to rediscover their slumping offense which has scored a meager 3.6 runs per game in their last three games. They've also batted only .222 with a .414 slugging average in this games. Yet, despite their lack of offense the Cardinals are riding a two game winning streak as they visit AT&T Park to take on Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco will depend on Matt Cain to make Ankiel and Ludwick's return to the order a quiet one.
A big part of that success has been the performance of their pitching staff, limiting Milwaukee to one and two runs in the victories. St. Louis will start Joel Piniero tonight who is coming off a 3-2 loss to the Royals. Piniero has walked 7 batters in 611/3 innings pitched this season and has a remarkably low K/9 of 3.1, meaning nearly all of his outs are from balls in play.

The Cardinals will thus welcome Ricky Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick back into the lineup tonight with open arms and a sigh of relief. It may not be coincidence the Cardinals' slump in May has come at the same time these two have been out of the lineup. Aside from providing much needed strength at the plate the two are skilled fielders, something Piniero's success depends on. San Francisco already has one of the lowest rated offnses in the league and will have their work cut out for them tonight.

Matt Cain will certainly aid San Francisco in keeping up with the Cardinals. Cain has a 2.40 ERA and 1.32 WHIP this season and is coming off a very nice start in Seattle where he gave up only 1 earned run from 10 hits. He also had 7 strikeouts without walking a batter. I would not bet on Cain limiting the Cardinals to one run if he gives up 10 hits tonight with St. Louis averaging nearly a double with every hit in their last three games. Cain has a 9.58 ERA in two career appearances against St. Louis so I expect he will be sorely tested.

Overall, I think Ludwick and Ankiel will make their presence felt most in the out field, limiting the Giants' hits. San Francisco is batting .327 in their last three games, all wins, so I expect their batting numbers to go down. Still, I think Cain is the better overall pitcher and with a bit of luck the Giants will be able to find the gaps in the outfield enabling them to still get their share of hits. As long as Cain does not have a disastrous outing I think the Giants should win this game, but the Cardinals will have a chance at every point in the game.