COMMENTARY | The St. Louis Cardinals have found some success, and some concerns, during the first few weeks of the 2013 season. Looking ahead at the rest of April, it is clear to see that they will find some possibly season-defining challenges.
The opening month of the season does not forecast an easy road for the team. Not only will they play 28 games in April, they will play 11 games against teams that found themselves in the post-season in 2012. The Cincinnati Reds will pose five of those contests, the San Francisco Giants have already played three against the Cardinals and the Washington Nationals lay a short distance in the future. Add to that a very dangerous and competitive Pittsburgh Pirates squad and April becomes a dangerous month.
The Pittsburgh PiratesThe team that is looking to produce a winning season for the first time in over 20 years will play host to the Cardinals April 15-17. The series not only comes at the first half of a 13-game stretch without an off-day for the Cards, it also opens up a 10-game road series for the team. Should the rotation stay the same, Lance Lynn, Jake Westbrook and Shelby Miller will face the Pirates. These three have been somewhat impressive at the beginning of the season, but they are also the three pitchers that are surrounded by the most questions. As if that was not enough, the Cardinals will return from that long road trip, after a much-needed day off, to face the Pirates at home April 26-28. The schedule has lined up and put the same three hurlers on the mound for the second series. The Pirates find themselves in a unique position to help hinder the Cardinals' 2013 season very early on.
The Washington Nationals
The rematch of last season's National League Division Series, the Nationals will play host to the Cardinals April 22-24. This time, the Cardinals have Miller starting the opener with Adam Wainwright and Jaime Garcia to follow. While last year's Division Series went to the Cardinals, this is not quite the same Nationals team that they faced last season. That will become very clear in the first and final games of the three-game series as the Nationals will run former Cardinal Dan Haren to the mound to open the series and Stephen Strasburg will take the hill to close it. The Nationals will be looking for revenge and the Cardinals will be looking to prove last season was not a fluke. Mark your calendars for this one, it may be the best three game set of the early season.
Early on, looking at the schedule, this was a series that was easily forgotten and overlooked. The Phillies have not been a threat since the Cardinals eliminated them from the post-season in 2011. That, however, was largely due to health and this team is healthy. They play in a tough division but are looking to embrace the "spoiler" tag in many different ways in 2013. When the Cardinals travel to the city of brotherly love for a four-game session April 18-22, the boys from Philadelphia will be trying to show the world that they are ready to spoil some parties this year.
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