Douglas Benton. 26th April, 2012 - 3:36 pm
The rivalry between Cubs-Cardinals was one sided to start the year with St. Louis one of the top teams in the National League and Chicago among the worst. However, the host Cubs took two out of three over the weekend to hand the Cardinals their first series loss.
Game 1: Cubs win 3-2
Game 2: Cubs wins 3-2 in 10 innings
Game 3: Cardinals win 5-1
Chicago Cubs (6-13)
Bryan LaHair has been a surprise in the young season with a .364 average, four home runs and 11 RBI. He has also drawn nine walks and struck out 18 times. He went 3-for-8 with two home runs in showing a good power bat from the left side. His strikeout numbers need to be lowered, but the 29 year old is a bat to watch going forward.
The Cubs are clearly in rebuilding stages with one of the cornerstones being 22-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro. He went 2-for-12 against St. Louis, but is hitting .333 on the season with seven steals. Shortstop has seen its share of talented players rise up the ranks and time will tell if Castro can enter that elite level. He is hitting No. 3 for the Cubs and saw less than four pitches per at-bat in this series.
Jeff Samardzija has been an intriguing arm since the Cubs drafted him out of Notre Dame. He had made just five starts in his career prior to 2012, but is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA this year. He likely had his best start of the year in game two going 6.2 innings of shutout ball with four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts. He is at 9.38 strikeouts per nine innings in clearly having the stuff to be a top pitcher, but the right-hander will need to be more consistent in the future.
St. Louis Cardinals (12-7)
It is tough for Lance Lynn to stay hidden at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. It is even tougher when he is 4-0 with a 1.33 ERA and a WHIP less than one. In the series finale, he went eight innings of one run ball with six hits, two walks and seven strikeouts. The right-hander is a ground ball pitcher with 15 outs on the ground against Chicago. St. Louis continues to find quality starters and Lynn looks like another one.
After a hot start, Carlos Beltran has slowed down some in hitting .265 on the year. He went 1-for-11 with a double against the Cubs and is now 1-for-19 over the past five games. Beltran was brought in to help offset the production loss from Albert Pujols leaving for the Angels. The 35 year old outfielder seems to have new life after a solid 2011 run with the New York Mets and a healthy Beltran should help St. Louis grab the NL Central.
The Cardinals blew ninth inning leads in both losses this week. Jason Motte came on in game one to give up a hit, two walks and two runs while Marc Rzepczynski went for the two inning save in game two. After holding the Cubs in the eighth, he gave up a home run to LaHair in the ninth as part of a lefty-lefty matchup. The bullpen was a key factor in St. Louis' late season run to the World Series in 2011, so finding solutions is the biggest question mark right now.
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