Saturday, September 30, 2006

Deathwatch, Penultimate day (11)

For 7 innings the Cards were frustrated by failure, having left 8 runners on with no results. More exacerbating, although Milwaukee had only 5 hits, they had plated 2 runs, courtesy of Jeff Cirillo's pinch-hit 2-run single in the top of the seventh. So when Rafael Belliard lined out to right with the bases loaded in the eighth, one didn't feel good about the team's chances.

Enter Scott Spiezio.

He of the ugliest lower lip hair growth in the major leagues slapped a triple to right, scoring all 3 Cardinal runs in their 3-2 victory today at Busch III.

Ol' Tony looks relieved in that picture, doesn't he? Either that or he remembered where he left his teeth.

Unfortunately, after Atlanta tied the game in the 8th, their shoddy defense allowed 3 runs in the 9th, and they weren't able to recover, losing 5-4 to Houston.

(And while we're at it, since I'm not authorized to comment at Deadspin - all this hand-wringing is entirely appropriate. When a team you follow (and care a little too much about, yes, there I said it) is in danger of becoming a punch line for failure, and you KNOW they're capable of doing so, you hope against hope they don't. I don't want my favorite team included in the 'biggest late season chokes' discussion with the 1964 Phillies, 1969 Cubs, 1978 Red Sox, and 1995 Angels. Additionally, winning the Central Division isn't a foregone conclusion. Hou's starting pitching is better than StL's, and Cardinal hitting has been just squirrely enough to make losing this division a very very real possibility. The last 2 games have dialed down the panic, but it isn't over.)

This brings us to our alternate topic for the post: How does LaRussa organize his starters for the post-season?

Now that tomorrow's game is a must win to get in, it looks like LaRussa will start Carpenter. Let's assume he wins, and the Cards clinch. Their NLDS schedule should be Oct 3, Oct 5, Oct 7-9. Here's the rest for their starters:

Carpenter (pitches 1 Oct): 3 Oct (1 day), 5 Oct (3 days), 7 Oct (available). Suppan (pitched 30 Sep): 3 Oct (2 days), 5 Oct (available). Weaver (pitched 29 Sep): 3 Oct (3 days), 5 Oct (available). Marquis (pitched 28 Sep): 3 Oct (4 days - available). Reyes (pitched 27 Sep): 3 Oct (available).

So who starts Game 1? If I'm LaRussa, there's NO WAY Marquis pitches any more this season. In fact, I'd leave him off the active post-season roster entirely. His head is all screwed up. 0-4, 8.46 ERA in September? When your team really needed you? YOU SUCK. Only way I'd consider activating him is if we need his left handed bat as a pinch hitter. Reyes: Too young. Rick Ankiel started game 2 of the 2000 NLDS, and something in him short circuited, leading to 7 wild pitches and effectively ending his pitching career.

So, if I'm doing it, it goes like this:

Game 1: Weaver. (makes sense. 4-1 on the road as a Cardinal, 1-3 at home; 4.38 road ERA, 7.70 at home). He's a veteran who can pitch on 3 days rest.
Game 2: Carpenter. Best pitcher on the club. If Weaver falters, we'll need him to stay in the series regardless of which team we're playing. Besides...
Game 3: Suppan. Soup has been a much better pitcher at home this year (7-2 , 3.18 at home; 5-5, 5.36 on road). It makes sense to save him for the home opener. No decisions against the NL West contenders; pitched much better against LA than SD.
Game 4: Reyes (up 2-1); Weaver (down 1-2). I think we opt for the veteran if we're behind in the series. I think Reyes, who pitched very well in his last start (a game StL won and had to have) would be a good choice here if he can pitch the series clincher. Pressure, yes, but not 'if you lose, we're done' pressure. I think LaRussa should protect him this post-season; he's one of our starters for the future, and we don't need another Ankiel (see above).
Game 5: Carpenter. If you get beat, you want it to be with your best on the mound.

Of course, if they lose tomorrow and Houston wins, all this goes out the window. Then I think you're forced to start Reyes against the Giants.

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