Are the White Sox of "First Place" caliber? During the recent nine-game winning streak we would have said a defiinite "yes." Now, after a disappointing 4-5 homestand in which we faced the Mariners, Blue Jays and Astros, we're not quite so confident even though we still enjoy a slim 1/2 game lead over the Tribe.
We should know a lot more about these Sox as they face the World Champion Cardinals and N.L. West-leading Dodgers in a pair of three-game series beginning tonight.
The good news is that the Sox have a major league best 17-9 record away from home and appear to be comfortable in enemy territory. But the Cards and Dodgers will provide a sizeable challenge nonetheless.
With the Cardinals up first, here are some facts and figures for those of you who aren't familiar with the Redbirds. We'll review the Dodgers later in the week:
--Although the Cards are just a game over .500 at 31-30, they can be dangerous and are right in the N.L. Central race only two games behind the Reds and Pirates, who are tied for the lead.
--Rightfielder Carlos Beltran (pictured above), who is doing his best to make St. Louis fans forget the great Albert Pujols, leads the league in homers (18) and is among the league leaders in RBIs (46) as well as the club pacesetter. He is hitting .290.
--Catcher Yadier Molina leads the Cardinals is batting average with a .330 mark.
--Shortstop Rafael Furcal is second in average to Molina at .304 and leads the team in runs scored (41) and stolen bases (9).
--Third baseman David Freese, last year's World Series MVP, is second on the team to Beltran in home runs and runs batted in with 12 and 40, respectively.
--Leftfielder Matt Holliday is second on the club in runs scored (38), third in homers (10) and RBIs (35).
--Pitching-wise, righthander Lance Lynn has become the ace of the St. Louis staff and he will face Jake Peavy in a terrific pitching duel on Wednesday night. He's tied for the major league lead in victories (9) with a 2.66 ERA. He's also the club leader with 74 strikeouts.
--Kyle Lohse, who we got to know well when he was with the Twins, is second on the team in wins (6) and ERA (2.90).
--Adam Wainwright, who will be facing the Sox's Jose Quintana tonight, is 5-6 with a 4.97 ERA as he is rounding back into shape after missing all of last year with an arm injury.
--Jake Westbrook, the former Indian, will match up with Gavin Floyd on Thursday. He's 4-6, with a 4.25 ERA.
--Former college catcher Jason Motte is the Cards' closer with 11 saves.
--The Sox-Cards series will match two rookie managers, Robin Ventura and Mike Matheny, who are thriving so far this year despite their lack of experience.
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Tags: Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols, Astros, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Dodgers, Indians, Jake Peavy, Jake Westbrook, Jose Quintana, Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn, Mariners, Matt Holliday, Mike Matheny, Pirates, Rafael Furcal, Reds, Robin Ventura, White Sox, Yadier Molina