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Giants vs. Cardinals Series Preview

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Giants vs. Cardinals Series Preview

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Baseball fans watch batting practice before the start of the San Francisco Giants home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 8, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

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Friday night means title defense, people. Sure, the Giants start to 2011 might best be qualified as "questionable," but home's been good to San Francisco. And now they welcome the Cardinals.

To the preview machine, Batman!

Game 1, 4/8, 1:35 PM PST Jonathan Sanchez (0-1, 3.18 ERA) vs. Jake Westbrook (0-1, 16.62)
Not gonna lie: Westbrook's ERA kind of pops out at me. And sure, it's just one game, and therefore a small sample size, but for crying out loud -- the guy's Jake Westbrook. Which mean, yet again, the Giants have an advantage right off the bat in terms of the pitching matchup.

Sanchez has only started two career games against the Cards in his career (though he's pitched against them three times), but he's dominated, posting a 2.19 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 12 innings. I'd say his WHIP -- 1.541 -- is cause for concern, but this Jonathan Sanchez we're talking about. That's always the case. Interestingly, Sanchez, over the course of his career, pitches better on the road than he does at home, although the difference isn't terrifyingly dramatic.

Westbrook, obviously, isn't coming in "hot" -- and he's only pitched against San Francisco once in his career, a loss in which he gave up three earned over six innings while striking out seven. That K rate is insanely high for Westbrook, so don't expect to see him whiffing batters on Friday.

Instead, expect him to try and groundball the hell out of the team. The only problem there is that the last guy who tried to groundball this team to death -- Tim Stauffer -- got pummeled.

Game 2, 4/9, 6:05 PM PST, Matt Cain (1-0, 0.00) vs. Jaime Garcia (1-0, 0.00)
There's some early acing going on here, and it's arguable that this is the best pitching matchup of the series.

Garcia's been sleepily dialing up big games as a surprise rookie for a while, and Cain's a stud.

Check his home stats -- 3.19 ERA, 472 K's in 590 innings -- and it's clear that he really prefers pitching in AT&T.

Interestingly, Garcia's much better when at new Busch -- his ERA spikes almost two runs a game when he leaves home. (2.01 vs. 3.89) And if you look at things across the board, it's pretty obvious that the struggles when he's not pitching in St. Louis, he struggles much more.

The Giants, then, get a big edge here.

Game 3, 4/10 1:05 PM PST, Kyle Lohse (0-1, 5.14) vs. Barry Zito (0-0, 4.50)
Pretty epic matchup right here of recent fantasy baseball waiver wire monsters -- Lohse is the guy that's always a maybe as a two-start pitcher, while Zito used to be a stud but's fallen on hard luck in recent years.

Fake baseball aside, though, Zito's ERA might not belie how good he was in the spring. Remember, he dealt with a nearly-nasty car accident recently, and one can hardly blame him for being shaky out of the get-go in his first start on Sunday night.

One can, however, blame him for his mustache. If you hate mustaches.

Which you shouldn't -- they're swell. But I digress. Zito's actually a guy that it's not strange to worry about, when he faces Albert Pujols.

And the numbers back it up, too. Zito's 1-5 against the Cards in his career, with a 5.02 ERA. The good news is ...

Lohse's been, um, Lohse against the Giants. 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA and 14 K's over 25 innings. Just your standard barely-above average performance, really.

Fearless Prediction: My optimism is probably (as usual) unfounded. But the matchups are all there for the Giants to sweep this series. I think the Cain game is a lock, and I think Zito gets a quality start under his belt en route to Brian Wilson picking up his first save of the year. I'm going to give the Sanchez game to the Cardinals in some sort of fluke situation that involves JS getting outpitched by Westbrook and has everyone standing out by the ledge.

2-1 start to the home games, though, is where you want to be, if you're the Giants coming off a strugglesworth-worthy pair of road openers.

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