Final month comes with plenty of scrutiny
Team to watch: St. Louis Cardinals
After an early-August sweep of the NL Central-leading Reds, a lot of people thought the Cardinals were on their way to running down Cincinnati and pulling away from this "Cinderella" Reds team. Since that time, however, St. Louis has spiraled downward. With Tuesday's 3-0 loss against the Astros, the Cardinals have lost seven of eight. If you would have said at the end of that series that the Cardinals would be seven games back heading into September, well, that would've been hard to believe. Adam Wainwright was just breezing along, on his way to a Cy Young trophy. But now he's had a few rough starts in a row and seems out of sync. The offense has continued to be inconsistent. Things just aren't clicking for a team that has all the pieces to be really successful. Still, this rotation, with Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, will right the ship. This team has one more good run in it, but the Cardinals have to pick it up now. The Cards have three series over the first three weekends of September against playoff-contending teams -- Reds, Braves and Padres -- and you can bet that these teams want to avoid getting beat by Albert Pujols. The supporting cast around Pujols has to step up -- Matt Holliday, Jon Jay and Colby Rasmus, in particular. It will be interesting to see how the St. Louis lineup responds. This next weekend against Cincinnati is a make-or-break series for the Cardinals' divisional hopes. If St. Louis loses two of three, the Reds can feel pretty confident about wrapping up the NL Central. But don't give up on the Cardinals for the wild card.
Pitcher to watch: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Hitter to watch: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies
Aaron Boone is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."
Touch 'Em All
Who went deep? Keep track of all the home runs hit each day on "Baseball Tonight" and the Baseball Tonight Clubhouse page. For more, check out the Home Run Tracker page.
|A.J. Pierzynski, CHW||7||CLE||Top 9: 0-1, 1 Out. 2 on.||Hermann|
|Jose Bautista, TOR||43||TB||Top 6: 1-0, 2 Outs. 2 on.||Cormier|
|Mark Teixeira, NYY||30||OAK||Bot 4: 2-2, 2 Outs. 2 on.||Mazzaro|
|Michael Young, TEX||20||KC||Top 1: 0-1, 1 Out. None on.||O'Sullivan|
|Garrett Jones, PIT||20||CHC||Top 4: 3-2, 0 Outs. 1 on.||Mateo|
Wednesday's Best Matchups
White Sox at Indians, 12:05 p.m. ET
Manny Ramirez arrived with the White Sox on Tuesday, and got as far as the on-deck circle for a possible pinch-hit appearance. If he does find himself in the lineup, Ramirez will face Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, who will be making just his sixth career start. In five starts, over 22 1/3 innings, he's already given up six homers.
Phillies at Dodgers, 3:10 p.m. ET
Roy Oswalt, since losing his first start with the Phillies, is rolling, having gone 3-0 over his past five starts since that loss. Philadelphia won both games in which he walked away with a no-decision. Oswalt has given up two or fewer runs in four of those five outings. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw had a 3.18 ERA in August, but went only 1-3.
Rockies at Giants, 9:15 p.m. ET
Two of the biggest pitching names in the NL go head-to-back. Oddly enough, both come in struggling. Tim Lincecum has lost his past five starts. Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez is 0-3 over his past four starts. While Lincecum went through August with a 7.82 ERA, Jimenez's struggles haven' t been as bad. He didn't give up more than three runs in any of his starts last month.
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WEB GEMS LEADERBOARD
TUESDAY'S BEST AND WORST
BESTEdwin Jackson, RHP, White Sox
All eyes were on Manny Ramirez in his arrival with the White Sox. And A.J. Pierzynski hit the big three-run shot to lift Chicago to the win. But it was Jackson who put forth yet another dazzling performance, striking out 11 over 8 2/3 innings to improve to 3-0 with the White Sox. The 11 strikeouts marked his third straight outing with double-digit K's.
WORSTRyan Dempster, RHP, Cubs
The Cubs beat up on the Pirates on Monday. Pittsburgh got even Tuesday, scoring 14 runs on 15 hits against five different Chicago pitchers. The mess started with Dempster, who gave up seven hits and seven runs in three innings. The win snapped Dempster's four-game winning streak.