Ten Questions for the Cubs vs. Cards Series

Our St. Louis-based Cubs fan staffer Pete Khazen weighs in on the weekend festivities at Busch Stadium as the Cardinals entertain the invading Chicagoans.

Ah, yes! It's been too long. I know the Chicago Cubs were here back in the beginning of May, but I think it's fair to say that Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals fans alike are as hungry for this series as they are for some barbecue this weekend.

 

Forget about the Mets and Giants; it's game time in St. Louis. We have upon us a three-day weekend, and there's no better way to celebrate this nation's God-blessed independence and our freedom as its citizens than with a good ol' Cubs vs. Cards series with the NL Central top spot on the line right here in Midwestern USA.

 

To guide you through your weekend and help you gear up what should be a spectacular series, I have 10 questions for you to consider:

 

1. Will St. Louis experience a Cubbie Blue invasion?

 

Cubs fans are rather thirsty after a 100-year struggle through the World Series Championship-less desert. And they're excited about this club that's currently leading the National League. When a Fourth of July holiday weekend in St. Louis popped up on the schedule, there's no doubt Cubbie fans from around the country started packing their bags for a three-day, divisional showdown in St. Louis. Did Cardinals fans give up their tickets to brokers, who sold them at top dollar to blue invaders? Or will the Cardinal Nation stand their ground, come out in droves, and give their team a red-clad home field advantage like they usually do?

 

2. Will Jim Edmonds receive a standing ovation?

 

Yes, hearts are still breaking across St. Louis as distraught female Cardinals fans are forced to see their beloved Jimmy come to town in a Cubs uniform. A what?  That's right, a Cubs uniform. It's safe to say there will be more Edmonds Cardinals jerseys in the stands this weekend than Edmonds Cubs jerseys. The safe bet is that Cardinals fans will give Edmonds a resounding ovation as they welcome him back to St. Louis and thank him for his years of service, which included a World Championship, a slew of home runs, numerous great defensive plays, as well as a fair share of exciting, and completely unnecessary, diving catches (hey, I've got to get my digs in where I can).

 

3. Can Carlos Zambrano continue his good run against the Cardinals?

 

Big Z has some solid numbers against the Redbirds. Last season he went 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and in 18 starts over his career he is 8-4 with a 2.37 ERA. The times the Cards have beaten him have come in close pitching duels. With Braden Looper on the mound Friday night, the series will kick off with a bang as Looper has the exact same career ERA (2.37) against the Cubs. The result could set the tone for an action-packed holiday weekend. If Zambrano gets rattled, keep an eye on his interaction with Edmonds in the Cubs dugout. Edmonds was victim of a couple Zambrano bean balls, and the two have had their share of run-ins over the years. Should Zambrano blow his top, will Edmonds help cool him down, keep his distance, or serve as the in-dugout punching bag?

 

4. Can the Cardinals solve the mystery that is the "soft-tossing lefty"?

 

There's something about lefties with fastballs in the 86-93 mph-range that makes Cardinals bats shrivel up and wilt. And it's so well-known that Cubs skipper Lou Piniella altered his rotation a bit, pinning back-to-back soft-tossing lefties against the Cardinals Saturday and Sunday. First, it's Ted Lilly in Saturday's game and then recent Triple-A call-up Sean Marshall in the series finale. If the Cubs still had Glendon Rusch, they'd probably let him take the mound too.

 

5. Will either Lou Piniella or Tony La Russa get ejected this weekend?

 

Both managers have a tendency to get steamed on the bench, particularly in big series. Though the duo are quite friendly and most certainly will keep their distance from each other, that's not necessarily the case with the umpiring crew. With a young Cardinals team playing about as well as can be expected facing their biggest series of the year, you can bet La Russa is going to show his team he's got their back if calls start to go against them. As for his counterpart, well, "Sweet" Lou can go sour faster than flood waters busting through a levy. And hey, what's a Fourth of July weekend without a little fireworks, right?

 

6. Speaking of fireworks, will the game Friday night be affected by Fair St. Louis' show?

 

The game starts at 7:15pm CT Friday night. Fair St. Louis has their fireworks show on the river, under the Arch, starting at 9:00pm. In a perfect world, the game would end 15-30 minutes prior to the show and fans would be able to kick back in their stadium seats and enjoy the show amidst the backdrop beyond the outfield bleachers. But that's not the way it'll go unless Looper and Zambrano both toss complete games and the score is 1-0. Most likely the game will be in full swing, and there's always a chance that the start of fireworks exploding over the city could serve as an unexpected distraction.

 

7. Will we escape the weekend without any InBev references?

 

The Anheuser-Busch board of directors recently passed on a buyout bid from Belgium beverage manufacturer InBev. It looks like InBev could position themselves for a hostile takeover of A-B. With the business news wires ablaze with this story, you can almost be guaranteed you'll see at least one Cub fan looking to get his jabs in on the Cardinal Nation with a sign that says "Welcome to InBev Stadium". Then again Tribune Company (and Cubs) owner Sam Zell could very well sell the naming rights to Wrigley Field quicker than you might be able to say "Old Style Field". Is it really all about the money?

 

8. What will happen in the battle of the ex-teammates?

 

Jim Edmonds and Todd Wellemeyer will get to face their former teams. While Edmonds might start all three games, Wellemeyer will only be pitching on Sunday. Still, both players have a chance to make a huge impact on the series, as could Jason Marquis should he be given an opportunity to pinch-hit or run the bases. Keep watch!

 

9. Will long ball or small ball win out?

 

Is it going to be a weekend of singles, stolen bases, sacrifices, and suicide squeezes, or are the big red wiffle ball bats going to come out and play? Both teams have speed, good fundamentals, and power hitting, so we could no doubt get a balance all weekend long. But knowing how things go historically when these two clubs hook up, don't be surprised if Ryan Theriot goes yard and Yadier Molina lays down a bunt single and steals second base… OK, that one might be a stretch.

 

10. What will the standings look like in the NL Central come Monday morning?

 

At 51-35, the Cubs remain atop the NL Central division with the Cardinals hanging tough at 49-28, just 2.5 games back. Both teams are coming off losses where they were routed Thursday night. But the momentum is no doubt with the Cardinals as the Cubs have dropped seven of their last 10 games. Barring any rainouts, we have four possibilities. Yes, there is a chance that with a sweep the Cards could find themselves perched atop the division by a half game. Otherwise, the Cubbies will be leaving St. Louis up 1.5, 3.5, or 5.5 games. No matter how you slice and dice it, we've got a big series on our hands.

 

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July, and enjoy the games!

 

Got a question or comment? Send Pete an email at pete@petekhazen.com.

 

 

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