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Posted on September 10, 2008 at 8:02 AM
Filed Under: Baseball | Chicago Cubs | Heroes and Goats | St. Louis Cardinals | United Cardinal Bloggers
Even without the whole postseason ramifications of last night's game, you had to enjoy it.  It was almost post-season tension in the late innings, wondering which bullpen would finally break.

Honestly, though, I was pretty worried in the sixth.  I knew the Cardinals kept wriggling out of danger--isn't it great to have a strikeout guy like Jason Motte in the bullpen now?  Especially against a team that's not seen him yet!--but the way Dempster had been pitching both all year and last night, I was starting to think that three runs would be enough for him.

Of course, as soon as I say that, a double, a bunt hit and Albert Pujols does what he does.

How terrible is it that we are so spoiled?  I'm in my early thirties.  Pujols will probably retire in my mid-forties.  After that, it's all downhill.  Because I can't imagine I'll ever see a player as amazing as he is.  Brian Burwell has it right in his column today--if he was a Yankee, we'd never see the end of him on TV or hear the end of the talk surrounding him.  (And we'd probably figure he was overrated then, too.  But that's somewhat the nature of greatness not being on your team!)

Then, to steal a phrase from Erik Manning, Cesar Izturis wins the game with possibly the ugliest "walk-off check swing" in history.  It looked like he really wanted to stop that swing, but he did it too late.  Which probably helped Brendan Ryan to score, because the Cub infielders had to be a little surprised contact was made as well.  It was a perfect slide by Ryan to get around the catcher and the Cards get the win.

Even in the best of games, though, we have to award a Goat tag.  It's actually pretty tough to do.  Most of the team contributed, with the bullpen doing yeoman's work.  Troy Glaus went 0-2, but left with a shoulder injury, so you can't really go there.  I think, even with the fact the bullpen did so well, I have to give it to Ron Villone.  You are sent in there to get one guy out and you walk him on five pitches?  In the ninth?  That's asking for trouble.  Thankfully, the Closer Who Must Not Be Named That was able to get out of danger.

With Milwaukee losing, the Cardinals now are 3.5 out the wild card (only half a game behind the Phillies in that race) and 8 out of the division title.  The odds of the Cardinals making the playoffs have increased significantly according to Baseball Prospectus's postseason odds report--they are at just over 9% now compared to 4.7% before the game.

However, before we all get fired up after a great win, remember that the last time the Cardinals did this--pull out a big win against a postseason rival--they lost the next four games.  Momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher, after all.

Which means we should take a look at those pitchers, right?

A couple of similar pitchers go tonight, at least in results.  Ted Lilly is on the mound for the Cubs.  Lilly has gone against the Cardinals three times this year, with a 1-0 record and a 3.10 ERA to show for it.  Lilly has done OK against the Redbirds historically.  Glaus wouldn't have played tonight anyway, likely, since he has that nice .059 average against the Chicago hurler.  Pujols has hit him well, though, with a couple of home runs, and with him in the groove he is in, another home run is a strong possibility.

Braden Looper goes for the Cardinals.  Here are his two lines against the Cubs this year.  Could they be any more similar? (Sorry, channeling my inner Chandler.)

7/4/08: 7 innings, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 HR, 1 BB, 5 K, 12 GB, 5 FB, 27 batters faced
8/8/08: 7 innings, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K, 12 GB, 11 FB, 27 batters faced

However, both of those were Cardinal losses, one in extra innings.  He's done a pretty good job of limiting damage from the Cub batters in the past.  Hopefully he'll continue to do that tonight.

Lots of tempests in teapots this week, apparently.  The whole Carpenter to closer bit?  He's got to be healthy first.  He says he expects to get into a game before the end of the season.  Anyone want to bet on the over/under on his appearances the rest of the way?  The line's at 2.5.

Pujols's elbow surgery?  Not so fast, my friend.  He says it's better than last year, that his comment was more offhand than anything, and it isn't certain that he'll even have the surgery at all.  It's not surprising, though, that it got a lot of play, since this season is hanging by a thread, and that thread is in his elbow.

Another game tonight.  If the Cards take this one, maybe we really can start thinking more about October.

And don't miss Bird Land's synopsis of the Top 7 project!

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Rick Ankiel 83.9%
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