The St. Louis Cardinals always draw fans when they travel to Denver, but when they come to town for a four-game series starting Thursday night, the applause for the team in red could be louder than usual.
Third baseman Nolan Arenado, who was beloved by Colorado Rockies fans in his eight years with the team, is returning to Coors Field for the first time since he was traded to the Cardinals in the offseason. Colorado fans will get their first in-person look at Arenado in a St. Louis uniform.
The Cardinals will have veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright (6-5, 3.59 ERA) going against Rockies right-hander Antonio Senzatela (2-7, 4.76).
Arenado won the Gold Glove every season with the Rockies, was a five-time All-Star and became a fan favorite. His departure was unpopular in Colorado, and his return will be the focus at least for the first game. The Rockies are expected to honor him with a pregame video.
Arenado has continued to be a defensive star with St. Louis and has 16 home runs entering the series. He is a finalist in the All-Star balloting, so he could be back at Coors Field for the event on July 13.
As well as Arenado has played, his Cardinals have struggled. Before completing a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks — baseball’s worst team at 22-60 — on Wednesday, they had lost eight of 10 games. St. Louis is tied with the Cincinnati Reds for third place in the National League Central.
“We’ve got to play better baseball, and I think the last few games you’ve seen that,” Arenado said after Tuesday’s 3-2 win over the Diamondbacks. “We’re getting runs late, we’re having quality at-bats. … What this organization is known for: good stuff, good starting pitching and then some quality at-bats.”
St. Louis has the right pitcher going to start the series. In 16 career games — 12 starts — against the Rockies, Wainwright is 11-1 with a 1.41 ERA. He has done well in Denver, where he is 4-0 with a 2.21 ERA in six games (five starts).
Senzatela is making his seventh career start against the Cardinals, and he is 2-3 with a 5.70 ERA in the previous six.
Senzatela has struggled at times this season but is pitching well at Coors Field. After getting knocked around by the Los Angeles Dodgers in his first start of the season, he has a 2.91 ERA in his eight subsequent starts at Coors Field.
Colorado has gotten good pitching overall lately. Five Rockies pitchers combined to shut out Pittsburgh 2-0 on Monday night, and German Marquez came within three outs of a no-hitter before settling for a one-hit shutout on Tuesday night in an 8-0 defeat of the Pirates.
Jon Gray added to the success with six strong innings in a 6-2 win Wednesday to complete a sweep of the Pirates.
The issue, especially on the road, has been the bullpen. During a 1-4 trip last week, Colorado was tied or leading in the seventh inning or later in four games, but the relievers were hit hard. They combined to allow 18 runs (17 earned) in those games.
“I keep harping on this: Some of the pitching principles that we talk about are not being adhered to,” Rockies manager Bud Black said over the weekend. “Our bullpen has to pick it up to keep us in those games that we should be kept in.”
–Field Level Media