Dodgers Look To Return The Favor To Cardinals

Charlie Haeger makes his Dodger debut tonight, starting the opener of the three-game series with St. Louis.  The Cardinals won three of four games a few weeks ago at home, but now come to Dodger Stadium for the first time this season in what is looking more and more like an NLDS preview.

This will be Haeger's second major league start, and first since his major league debut on May 10, 2006.  In 34 major league innings, spread over the last three seasons with the White Sox and Padres, Haeger has given up 37 hits, five home runs, and 26 walks.  Yet I am excited for tonight's start, because Haeger throws a knuckleball.  The baseball world needs knuckleballers, so I will root for Haeger to succeed more than most.  With Triple A Albuquerque this season, Haeger was 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA in 22 starts.

The last time a knuckleball pitcher started a game for the Dodgers, Dennis Springer gave up home run number 73 to Barry Bonds on the last day of the 2001 season in San Francisco.

Brad Ausmus gets to don the oversized catcher's mitt for tonight's game.  The lineup, per the Dodgers:

Furcal SS
Hudson 2B
Ethier RF
Manny LF
Blake 3B
Kemp CF
Loney 1B
Ausmus C
Haeger P

Andre Ethier, who hit .440/.500/.680 last week, has simply been on fire of late.  He already has a career high in home runs (24) and RBI (80), and over his last 27 games is hitting .382/.473/.673, with 23 runs scored and 24 RBI.

Per the Dodger games notes, Rafael Furcal has the highest batting average against the Cardinals (.360) of anyone in baseball (with a minimum of 150 plate appearances).

Starting for St. Louis will be the amazing Chris Carpenter, who is healthy again and dominating.  Carpenter is riding a seven-game winning streak, during which he has posted a 2.10 ERA while averaging 7.5 innings per start.  Lest you think this is only a recent hot streak, Carpenter had a 2.42 ERA on the season before his current winning streak began.  Since joining the Cardinals in 2004, Carpenter's 145 ERA+ trails only Johan Santana (155) among all MLB pitchers.

Speaking of amazing, here is what Matt Holliday has done in his first 21 games as a Cardinal:  .459/.490/.776, 10 doubles, five home runs, 17 runs scored, and 22 RBI.  The Cards are 15-6 with Holliday in the fold.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes that Cardinals' rookie centerfielder Colby Rasmus is enjoying a special season:

Rasmus is the first Cardinals rookie since 1955 to have two walk-off home runs in the same season. The last to do it was Bill Virdon, who won the rookie year that season with a .281 average, 17 home runs and 68 RBIs.

Get your guesses in for "Just A Bit Outside" here.

Game Time:  7:10pm

TV:  Prime Ticket, ESPN

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