Friday, August 08, 2008

Remember, Two out of Three Ain't Bad

Cardinals dropped yesterday's game 4-1 to Los Angeles. I had some hope of a sweep, as Kyle Lohse and his 13-3 record was on the hill for the Redbirds, but that didn't come to pass. From what little of the game I was able to monitor at work, it appeared the Cardinals had their chances, but couldn't get the key hit when they needed it.

Going back in time a little bit, the bullpen meltdown on Tuesday was the last straw for upper management. I'm glad Mozeliak took the time to meet with LaRussa and Duncan Wednesday morning and formulate a plan on how to proceed going forward with the back of the bullpen. Chris Perez is young, so he should be treated with care; we definitely don't want a repeat of Anthony Reyes' mental issues with this guy. But his most recent outing was encouraging closing out Wednesday's game. It remains to be seen how the team redefines the roles of the rest of the bullpen with Perez as the closer for now. I was surprised to see Stavinoha optioned to Memphis, because I figured Perez would replace one of the arsonists in the bullpen (preferably Jimenez or Flores); that didn't happen. But the bottom line is, the team acted (finally!) to try and fix their bullpen woes, and that's good.

VEB had some good data yesterday on the Cardinals hitters. I would hope, using that empirical evidence, we can put to bed for the rest of this season the calls for another hitter to shore up the lineup. I'm sure Mozeliak is scouring the waiver wire for servicable relief pitchers. I'm surprised he didn't but in a claim on Chad Bradford, who was picked up by Tampa Bay today; Bradford has been very solid for an overachieving Orioles team (2.45 ERA; yes I know ERA isn't in vogue, but I'm a dinosaur so deal).

So this takes us to our first trip into Wrigley this season. The fact that our first trip to the North Side didn't happen until August is ridiculous. Nice schedule, MLB. The good news is Perez didn't pitch yesterday, so he was able to recover from his 21-pitch effort on Wednesday. Thompson threw 16 pitches in the same game, so he's available too. In fact, the only guy out of the bullpen who probably can't go today is Izzy. Kudos to Piniero and Lohse for getting through seven innings and giving the bullpen a much needed break.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals head into Wrigley as far behind (6 games) as they've been all season. They need to sweep to get back into the race and have a shot at catching Chicago for the division. I think that's wishful thinking. Getting swept will end their quest for the division and put the Wild Card as their only vehicle to the post season. It will also probably put them in third place in the Wild Card behind Milwaukee and Florida.

Pitching matchups and relative odds of winning:

Today: Looper (10-9, 4.29) vs Lilly (11-6, 4.35). Lilly actually has a higher ERA (4.34) at home than on the road, but he's 6-3 at Wrigley. He has a 3.06 career ERA against St Louis, and has 4 quality starts in a row. Looper has pitched better on the road (6-3, 4.04) than at home, and he's 0-1, 2.57 ERA this season against the Cubs. Projection: Cardinals take an early lead, but lose late 6-4.

Tomorrow: Wellemeyer (8-4, 4.01) vs Zambrano (12-4, 2.76). Wellemeyer is unbeaten on the road this year, although it's only 2-0. Zambrano, well, the crazy Venezuelan has been virtually unhittable against the Cardinals since 2004. Projection: The best pitched game of the series, but the Cubs prevail 2-0.

Also tomorrow's game will be on FOX, opposite Yankees/Angels. Gee, wonder which game San Diego will get? That's right - Padres/Phillies.

Sunday: Carpenter (0-0, 0.00) vs Dempster (12-5, 2.93). Actually says the Cardinal starter is TBD, so this is wishful thinking. Dempster has been a monster at home (10-2, 2.77). He hasn't faced STL this season. Carp, well, Carp always gets up for big games. Prediction: Carp goes 7 and leaves the game 0-0. Cubs push across two runs in the eighth, but Wood blows up in the ninth and the Cardinals win 4-2.

Here's hoping I'm wrong about the win totals for this series.

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