Game 64: St. Louis Cardinals @ Houston Astros, A Rubber Match

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 2: Starter Lance Lynn #62 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the San Francisco Giants in his major league debut at Busch Stadium on June 2, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)


HITTING STREAKS

Ryan Theriot's hit streak began with a bang during the Cardinals' 9-7 sweep-sealing loss to the Reds in Cincinnati. Theriot had two hits, one of which was a double. Entering play on May 15, Theriot's production had sunk to .280/.338/.311/.649. Theriot lifted his OPS to .661 on the Ides of May alone and, on the strength of the four consecutive two-hit games which started the streak, lifted his his offensive slash line to .304/.362/.338/.700. A slap hitter specializing in looping line-drive singles, Theriot's OPS would again hit the .700 mark precisely on June 3 when his SLG hit .350, the highest it has been since May 2. After last night--a game in which Theriot was 0 for 2 in at-bats but 2 for 4 in plate appearances, drawing a pair of walks--Theriot's seasonal line sits at .295/.346/.345/.691. And so it is that a twenty-game hit streak in which Theriot tallied 28 hits increased his BA by 15 points, his OBP 8 points, his SLG by 34 points, and his OPS 42 pionts.

While not as noteworthy due to its short length, Albert Pujols extended his hit streak to five games last night with a double. Heading into play June 2 against the visiting San Francisco Giants, Pujols owned a slash line of .262/.333/.412/.745. Pujols's five-game tear has lifted his slash line to .278/.350/.482/.832. And so it is that a five-game hit streak in which Pujols has tallied 10 hits has increased his BA by 16 points, his OBP by 17 points, his SLG by 70 points, and his OPS by 87 points.

This side-by-side is not meant as a dig at Theriot, but as yet another illustration of just how great Pujols is and can be. Theriot, at best an average major-league player and at worst a replacement-level player, is able to propel himself back to acceptability with an impressive twenty-game hit streak while Pujols, at his best an all-time great in the company of Aaron, Mantle, Musial and Hornsby, is able to propel himself exponentially higher, to a bronze-plaqued stratosphere of which average big-leaguers can but dream. This weekend, the Pujols propulsion won the club a series sweep against its historical rival, the Chicago Cubs. Tonight, will the club be able to ride Pujols to a series win over the once-potent Astros?

LANCE LYNN

Tall yet stout sinkerballer Lance Lynn makes his second career big-league start for the organization that drafted him tonight, this time on something more than full rest as he fills in for the disabled Kyle McClellan. With just three days of rest before his last start, against the Giants, Lynn deserved a better fate. Lynn was efficient, facing the minimum through the first three innings before a botched double-play ball opened the door to a two-run homer off the bat of Aubrey Huff in the fourth. Lynn bounced back in the fifth with two strike outs and a flyout to sit the Giants down in order. The sixth inning saw a leadoff ground-rule double followed by two groundball singles. After a groundout, Lynn was lifted for Trever Miller who gave up the hits that drove in the two baserunners owned by the rookie and inherited by the LOOGY. Lynn's end line of 5.1 IP, 5 ER, 5 R, 4 H, 0 BB, 5 SO should have been better, as recognized by Post-Dispatch scribe, Derrick Goold, who awarded Lynn a game ball.

J.A. HAPP

The Astros acquired J.A. Happ last season in the trade that sent Roy Oswalt to the Philadelphia Phillies. The lefthanded starter had shown promise in Philly, a promise that was perhaps misleadingly augmented by a 2.93 ERA--as compared to a 4.33 FIP and 4.43 xFIP. In 2010, between the Phillies and Astros, Happ again defied the fielding-independent metrics by posting a 3.40 ERA against a 4.32 FIP and 4.62 xFIP. This season, Happ has so far revealed himself to be the pitcher the FIPs indicated he was. His ERA of 4.62 sits closely to his 4.76 FIP and 4.63 xFIP.

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