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Down but not out...

The Mets this week head to St. Louis to face Albert Pujols. And yeah, while they're there, they'll get to see the new Busch Stadium and have wild parties with Isaac Bruce and Keith Tkachuk. What Albert Pujols has done is amazing, but more about that later. The Mets are in a bit of a S-L-U-M-P, but you shouldn't tell the kids that they are facing a Cardinals team thaet has been the toast of the NL for a few years running. If the Mets truly are to assume the Cardinals' mantle, then this is a quietly pivotal series before they take on Miguel Cairo and the third baseman as the Yankees move across town. However, keep hope alive. They've got the hits! Hits! They score the runs! Runs! Our team. Our time.

Game 1: Tuesday, 8:10 (EDT)
Tom Glavine, LHP (5-2, 2.19 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan, RHP (4-2, 4.58 ERA)
  • Edge/Analysis: The hotter-than-hot renaissance Glavine squares off against the underwhelmer extraordinaire Suppan. Off to a poor start, J-Supp has somehow won four straight starts. Things are looking up for Suppan and should the Mets' offense became further moribund, he's got a good chance, but for now you can't deviate from picking Glavine.

  • Game 2: Wednesday, 8:10 (National TV: ESPN)
    Steve Trachsel, RHP (2-3, 4.91 ERA) vs. Mark Mulder, LHP (4-1, 4.27 ERA)
  • Edge/Analysis: I'm getting sick of Trachsel. Every time I watch him pitch, it's as though he's telling me, "Schuyler, I'm not a third starter. I'm a fifth at best. Please remove me from this man-made prison." And if there weren't so many injury problems in our staff, the Cardinals would probably beat him into long relief during this start. However, it's obvious that Mark Mulder has his issues too, though at home he's 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA. Pujols will hit two HR off of Trax. You can't stop it. Mulder.

  • Game 3: Thursday, 1:10 (EDT)
    Jose Lima*, RHP (0-2 9.31 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis, RHP (4-4, 5.33 ERA)
  • Edge/Analysis: I have not asterisked Jose Lima because I view him as a steroid user. In fact, I view him as a man so devoid of steroids that he is practically crying out for weaker testing procedure. Jason Marquis is another troubled pitcher, a case of great stuff and terrible inconsistency. And let it not be forgotten that Lima's last bout of success came in the 2004 NLDS against these Cardinals while in his renaissance with the Dodgers. But come now, it's Jose Lima. the Marquis de Lafayette.

  • STL Breakdown: Record- 24-14
    Well, Albert Pujols turns out to be a pretty good player, considering he's slugging .833, and has driven in 48 of the 191 runs that St. Louis has scored. He's also scored 20 runs not on his homers, meaning he has been responsible for 68 of 191 St. Louis runs. Meaning he comprises about one-third of their offense. It seems slightly ludicrous that the best two teams in the National League are matching up and the hullaballoo is focused on everything else. But the Cardinals do have flaws. Their starting pitching has hardly lived up to steep expectations, lacking strong showings out of any of the three starters who will pitch this series. Upstart fifth starter Sidney Ponson, in what appeared to be a rebound season, went down with an elbow injury that will sideline him briefly. They still have Chris Carpenter, though, and he's everything they expected of him and more, posting a lights-out 1.98 ERA in nine starts, though he only has a 3-2 record. Their bullpen has also been a disappointment compared to its strength in years previous. Former Met Jason Isringhausen has been far from lights out, blowing two saves to the tune of a 1-2 record with a 4.73 ERA. Fellow former Met Braden "Ow! My AC Joint!" Looper has had one save opportunity in a set-up role. He blew it, for the record. He has been decent, though, posting a 2-0 record with a 3.07 ERA in 14 appearances. The bullpen misses specialists like Julian Tavarez and Ray King, though newcomers Josh Hancock, Brad Thompson and Adam Wainwright have allowed only 9 runs in 55 innings of work. Thompson's ERA is sub-one, Wainwright's is sub-two and Hancock's is sub-three. Lefty specialist Randy Flores has also been solid. The non-Pujols players are not exactly disappointments either, though having a corner outfield of Larry Bigbie/So Taguchi in left and Juan Encarnacion in left is nothing to write home about. David Eckstein, the scrappy shortstop, is hitting .311 and is acting as a good tablesetter for Big Al. Scott Rolen, in what is so far an injury-free season, is hitting nearly .300. Jim Edmonds also has driven in nearly 30 runs.

    Players to Watch for:
    STL: Albert Pujols. Do I need to explain this one?

    NYM: Cliff Floyd. I think it's time for him to break out. It must be. Let's do it, Cliffy.

    Player of the Series: Albert Pujols

    Picks: Los Cardinales take two of three. And then this ugly road trip comes to an end. Thank god.

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