At Least They Can't Clinch This Weekend: Cubs vs. Cardinals, Friday 9/18, 7:15 CT

The Cardinals' magic number to clinch the NL Central is 8. (It's the lowest of any of the magic numbers, division or wild card, right now.) Even if they sweep the Cubs, they won't get to celebrate this weekend. Small consolation, I know.

If the Cubs can rise to the occasion and sweep the Cardinals, it may not make any difference in the final standings, but it's always nice to beat your biggest rival, and that would also even up the season series. So there's definitely something to shoot for in a series that, several months ago, looked to mean a lot more than it does right now.

It's been suggested that So Taguchi wouldn't get a good reception returning to St. Louis. I beg to differ. When Jim Edmonds made his first appearance in St. Louis last year in a Cub uniform, he got a standing ovation. Taguchi, who was a good contributor as a bench player to two Cardinals World Series teams (and another WS winner last year in Philadelphia), would probably get warmly welcomed. He's not part of the Cubs' future, obviously, but maybe he can give the slumping Kosuke Fukudome a break by playing one of these games in CF.

Here's a different take on Milton Bradley -- this one from Athletics Nation, where they discuss the deal made by the A's after the 2005 season, where they sent Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Bradley. It's food for thought. I'd like to see the Cubs deal Bradley and maybe, just maybe, if their scouting is good enough, they can steal someone like Ethier from another team. Pipedream? Maybe. But worth discussing.

Today's Starting Pitchers
Ted Lilly
Ted Lilly
vs. John Smoltz
John Smoltz
12-8 W-L 3-6
3.05 ERA 6.53
137 SO 61
34 BB 10
22 HR 10
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs

2009 - Ted Lilly 12-8 25 25 0 0 0 0 162.1 141 60 55 22 34 137 3.05 1.08

Note: Smoltz's stats below are with the Cardinals only. See the pitcher box above for his full-season stats.

2009 - John Smoltz 1-1 4 4 0 0 0 0 22.0 19 8 8 2 1 28 3.27 .91

It's really impossible to tell what John Smoltz will do against the Cubs tonight. He has started four times for St. Louis -- two really good ones and two average starts. He is 15-5 in 39 career appearances (29 starts) vs. the Cubs, but most of that was in his prime with the Braves. His last two starts for Atlanta vs. the Cubs were in 2006, and he got pounded twice by that really bad Cubs team. Aramis Ramirez is 4-for-12 with a pair of homers off Smoltz and Derrek Lee has also homered off him. Incidentally, that's not a typo above -- he really does have only one walk for St. Louis in 22 innings.

Ted Lilly is 1-1, 2.40 vs. the Cardinals this year, losing on May 19 despite pitching well, in that series where the Cubs refused to score, and holding them to one run and four hits on July 11 in a 5-2 Cubs win. Current Cardinals are hitting .200 (44-for-220) off Ted. Lifetime he's 7-3, 2.89 in 13 starts vs. St. Louis.

Today's game is cable-only, on CSN Chicago and FSN Midwest. For other games today see the Mediacenter. Gameday game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva el Birdos.

Once again, just two overflow threads today -- 8:15 pm and 9:30 pm CDT. If there's a need for another one, please post as a FanShot.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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