Thursday, October 08, 2009

NLDS Game 1 Recap - Gridlock

One of the biggest concerns I had going into the playoffs was the Cardinals' offense, in that as a team they had trouble getting guys on base. Well, much like the traffic in Southern California streaming onto the highway, St Louis really had no issues getting guys on last night. Bringing them around became another matter; again just like traffic in So Cal during rush hour, Cardinal baserunners just sat there. Fourteen baserunners left on. Ouch.

On a night when Chris Carpenter clearly did not have his best stuff - I can't remember him recently leaving as many pitches over the middle of the plate as he did in the first inning - a lift from the offense would have really helped. Didn't happen.

Some thoughts from last night:

1. Four. Hours. Post-season baseball, everybody!

2. St Louis had two early chances to hammer Randy Wolf, and let them slip away. The first three Cardinal hitters reached to start the game and only one scored. Molina's DP was a killer, although Holliday striking out looking was the out that turned that inning for the Dodgers. Then the Dodgers assisted by helping St Louis load the bases in the fourth (AP intentional walk, Holliday hit by pitch). But Ludwick let that get away with a weak tap to the pitcher. I know he's down 0-2 and needed to protect, but from my living room Weaver's pitch looked clearly outside; why offer at it?

3. I evaluated the Cardinal bullpen as better than the Dodger pen based on IP and % of inherited runners scoring. Last night:

Dodger bullpen: 5 1/3 IP, 2 hits, 5 K. They would have held the Cardinals scoreless except for a horrendous decision by Matt Kemp on DeRosa's ball in the ninth.

Cardinal bullpen: 3 IP, 3 H, 4 BB, 3 K. High wire act. The fact they only gave up 1 run was something of a miracle.

Advantage Dodgers.

4. Why pinch hit Glaus for Rasmus with 2 on and 2 out in the seventh? Consider this:

Rasmus vs Kuo (career): 0-2, 2K
Glaus vs Kuo (career, before last night's AB): 0-3, K, BB.

Rasmus vs LH (career): .160/.219/.255 in 115 PA
Glaus vs LH (2009): 4 PA, 0-3. Career: .277/.399/.578 (1523 PA).

Yes Kuo is a lefty and Glaus a righty. However, IMHO, Glaus hitting there was more of a genuflection at the altar of 'The Book' then a smart baseball move. Why do I think it wasn't a smart substitution? Because Glaus' been hurt all year and has faced virtually no LH pitching in 2009. He couldn't get around on the high gas, and the one pitch he had to hit he fouled straight back. Rust. Oh, well.

5. On that note, how short handed the Cardinals are on the bench was never more evident than watching Glaus hit in the seventh, then waiting for the inevitable Ankiel strikeout to end the game.

6. Did DeRosa air mail that throw to second in the third inning or what? It was so bad a throw it was funny. Too bad, because he made a great play to get to Blake's ball in the first place.

7. You know it's not your night when Pierre screws up the sac bunt, but Molina can't field it cleanly and then can't get Belliard at third. Molina's frustration was clear on the replay.

8. One final reason for renewing your Maalox prescription. This is LaRussa's eighth NLDS as Cardinal manager. How did he fare in the previous 7 Game 1's?

1996 - Beat San Diego (home), won series 3-0
2000 - Beat Atlanta (home), won series 3-0
2001 - Lost to Arizona (road), lost series 2-3
2002 - Beat Arizona (home), won series 3-0
2004 - Beat Los Angeles (home), won series 3-0
2005 - Beat San Diego (home), won series 3-1
2006 - Beat San Diego (road), won series 3-1

Yep - the only NLDS LaRussa's lost as the Cardinals manager started with a loss on the road in Game 1. Granted they lost that NLDS largely because the Cardinal bullpen collapsed in the seventh inning of Game 3, and the Cardinals provided 1 run of support in Matt Morris' two spectacular starts, but still.

Most prognosticators, myself included, looked at last night's starters and penciled Carpenter in for a win. Didn't happen. Now, we have the best pitching matchup of the series - Wainwright vs Kershaw - and need to win. Make no mistake, tonight is a must win for St Louis. Wainwright better bring his A+ game. If he's the best pitcher this season, we need him now.

Otherwise, the Cardinals will turn to Pineiro and Lohse to save their season. I think we're all pretty OK with Pineiro starting Game 3 in St Louis, but given the physical issues Lohse has fought all year, sending this series back to LA would be a tall order indeed.

We need you Adam.

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