Monday, October 24, 2011

Week 7 And Nearing The End

Arizona was defeated by the Steelers easily. The Cards did cut it to 17-14 at some point, but Pittsburgh went on a 15-6 run the rest of the way. Arizona will also be destroyed by the Ravens this weekend. Big surprise, who cares, moving on.

The St. Louis Cardinals just lost Game 5 to the Rangers, which puts Texas up 3-2. That's two games in a row the bullpen and the offense has conspired to screw the pooch. I guess it's revenge for how the starting pitching made them carry the water in the NLCS.

I told myself I wasn't going to get excited until the Cardinals had won 3 games. By the same token, I refused to get worried until the Rangers had won 3. Time to get worried, I guess. If the Cardinals lose the Series, I won't have their success to carry me through the Arizona Cardinals' death march of a season. Well, the Rangers still have to win one more, so it's not over yet.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Week 6 And The World Series

The Arizona Cardinals avoided extending their losing streak to five games last weekend. Who cares if it was a bye week? At least they didn't lose. Considering Pittsburgh and Baltimore are next up on the docket, it's the last time we'll be able to say that for a couple of weeks.

In more positive news, St. Louis crushed the Brewers 12-6 to reach the World Series, where they face Texas. The Rangers did outscore the Cardinals this season, but that was with a DH, and playing half their games in a hitters' park. Busch Stadium III seems to be a pitcher's park, and the Cardinals have home field advantage, so we'll see how that works out.

Hopefully the starting pitching is more productive than it was in the NLCS, seeing as the bullpen threw over 28 innings in 6 games, compared to the starters' 24. I think it'd be dangerous to count on such favorable outcomes for a second consecutive series. But the weather will be cool in St. Louis, so perhaps that will help. Course, it helps the Rangers' pitchers as well.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 5 And Halfway Thru The NLCS

The Vikings finally found a team they couldn't blow a multiple touchdown halftime lead to, as they curbstomped Arizona 34-10. Yeesh. The Arizona Cardinals aren't even worth paying attention to these days.

As to the baseball Cardinals, they lost to the brewers last night 4-2. It figures the first starter of the Brewers to actually shut the Cardinals down would be Randy Wolf. Actually, no, it doesn't figure at all. Not that Wolf's a bad pitcher, but his track record doesn't exactly stack up to Grienke or Gallardo's. Nice as it might have been for the Cards to take care of business in St. Louis, I can't say I'm surprised. Even if the brewers were under .500 on the road this year, they'd still have a decent chance to win 1 out of 3 in the StL. Besides, the Cardinals haven't done anything the easy way the entire postseason, why start now?

It'd certainly be nice for Garcia to have a good start. The Cardinals have really only gotten one good postseason start, and that was Carpenter's NLDS Game 5 start. Jackson got results in NLDS Game 4, but it was a tightrope, and Garcia did alright in Game until he gave up that home run, but by and large, Cardinals starters are getting hammered early and often. Which will happen to average pitchers, but they should also luck into a good start every once in awhile. If nothing else, the bullpen could probably use some rest. They've done pretty well so far, but best not to push it.

Garcia's had better results at home this year than on the road, but I wonder about fatigue. He's already about 40 innings beyond what he threw last year, and that was a career high. This is uncharted territory for him. Still, I'd rather take my chances with a potentially gassed Jaime Garcia than Jake Westbrook.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

On To The NLCS

I held off until the NLDS wrapped up because I wanted to see whether I should start my regular season wrap-up posts. The Cardinals triumphed over the Phillies, so I get to wait at least another week.

I don't know whether to credit the Phillies' poor offensive showing (outside of Game 1) to the Cards' pitchers, or as a minus againt Philly's hitters. Little of both I imagine, but it was one of those things I mentioned, that the Phillies were middle of the pack offensively, while the Cards were best in the National League*. The Phillies pitchers were undeniably better, but they were also facing an undeniably better lineup than the Cardinals were.

At any rate, now the Cardinals have to face the Brewers, who beat the Cardinals by six games for the NL Central crown. The season series is an even 9-9, though, for what that's worth. The Brewers have home field, which is exactly what they wanted, as they were 57-24 there in the regular season, and 3-0 so far in the postseason. Contrast that to their 0-2 road record in the playoffs thus far, and their 39-42 road record during the regular season. I have no idea what makes them so good at Miller Park, but it's certainly bad news for the Cardinals that 4 of these games will be in Milwaukee. Assuming the series lasts long enough.

Once again, the Cardinals have the offensive advantage, though not by quite as much as they had over Philadelphia. The Cardinals had scored 49 more runs than the Phillies, but only 41 more than Milwaukee. Either way, it isn't a particularly large advantage. And once again the Cardinals appear to be operating at a disadvantage in run prevention, though also not as severe. The Phillies had allowed 163 fewer runs than St. Louis in the regular season. The Brewers have allowed 54 fewer runs than the Redbirds.

Of course, the Cardinals aren't the same team as they were at the beginning of the season. As I mentioned last time, the bullpen is very different from the Opening Day configuration, and they shouldn't find themselves relying on Jake Westbrook to win any games for them in the playoffs. If they have, things have gone very badly awry. I'm sure the Brewers gain some similar benefits, but I would imagine they have fewer of those sorts of holes to begin with, and so don't derive as much advantage from it.

Whether that's enough to balance things out, or tip them in the Cardinals favor, I don't know. Assuming LaRussa has finally learned his lesson about starting pitchers on short rest, the Cardinals can't use Carpenter until Game 3. Which means Lohse and most likely Garcia for the first two. Lohse of course is always a few bad bounces from trouble, and Garcia hasn't had particularly good success on the road this year. Some of that seems to be poor luck on batted balls, as his K/BB ratio is actually better on the road than at home, but I can't say it isn't concerning, especially against the Brewers, who have some pretty thunderous bats.

There's some discussion the Cardinals may be without Skip Schumaker for this series, as he left Game 5 with an oblique injury. If he's out, would LaRussa use Tyler Greene? Or would he decide to add another pitcher? Or would he keep Skip on the roster in the hopes his condition improved to where he could be used before it ended?

Oh, and in football news, the Arizona Cardinals fell to 1-3 after blowing a 4th quarter lead at home against the Giants. Color me unsurprised by the Arizona's incompetence.

* Which is kind of surprising considering the following: Pujols had the worst 2-month stretch of his career, then missed 14 games with a wrist injury. Schumaker missed time, Punto missed about 60% of the year, Freese missed two months, as did Craig, and Holliday missed over 30 games with various ailments.