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Baseball Mon May 18 2009

Cubs/Cards Preview

By the time this week's three game series with the Cardinals is over, the Cubs will be just about a quarter done with the 2009 season. And while I cannot predict what will happen during the next three games, it's safe to say that the first 40 games of the year have not gone to script. If you had talked with a Cubs fan before the season started and informed them that after six weeks of play Aaron Miles, Micah Hoffpauir and Bobby Scales will become everyday players; the team's number one starting pitcher and biggest RBI producer will both go on the DL; Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Mike Fontenot will be fighting to stay above the Mendoza line and the bullpen will post the second worst ERA in all of the NL, you probably would have been greeted with predictions of a season full of doom and gloom. But somehow, this Cubs team has not fallen into the dark; they have found a way to win games and stay competitive in a surprisingly strong NL Central division. Despite the injuries, the slow starts and unreliability in the bullpen, the 2009 Cubs have managed to post the same record through 36 games as the 2008 team did a year ago.

On Tuesday, the team starts a short, six game road trip in St. Louis. For the Cardinals, these games have higher stakes involved than the average mid-May series. Losers of 9 out of their last 13 games, St. Louis will once again put their frequently injured, Cy Young winning pitcher Chris Carpenter on the mound for the first time since he went to the DL on April 14th. If he can pitch to form, the Cubs' hitters will have their hands full with Carpenter on Wednesday and Adam Wainwright pitching on Thursday. It may be the boost the Cardinals need to break out of their current slump. While the Cardinals are looking for a strong return from their number one starter, the Cubs are hoping to pull out a few more wins while waiting for the return of their staff ace. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to start in San Diego on Friday after a rehab outing over the weekend. Despite a rocky 3.2 innings pitched at High-A Daytona, Zambrano says he feels ready to go and only needs to work on correcting his release point before Friday's game.

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