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A Crushing Blow

Posted on September 27, 2011 at 6:31 AM
Filed Under: Atlanta Braves | Heroes and Goats | Houston Astros | St. Louis Cardinals
The Atlanta Braves keep trying to give the wild card away.  The St. Louis Cardinals just won't take it.

Knowing that Philadelphia had already disposed of the Braves, the Cards rallied late in the game, but were unable to win it in regulation.  That's always a problem on the road, where one bad pitch, one bloop hit, and you are done.  Which is pretty much how it happened.

Even though Octavio Dotel lost the game, I don't want to give him the Goat tag.  He pitched a solid ninth and gave the Cardinals another chance, plus that leadoff double in the tenth wasn't his fault, Brian Bogusevic just fended off the pitch and happened to drop it where nobody was able to get to it.  Now, if he's able to field a bunt, perhaps Dotel is able to get him at third, but once there's a runner on second and nobody out, it's very tough to keep him from scoring.

I think you have to look at an offensive player for the Goat in this one.  Time after time the Cardinals had their chances to get some runs and take control of the game, and time after time they failed to do so.  I'll give the tag to Ryan Theriot for his double play in the fourth, plus his detrimental play in the ninth, not only being unable to advance Yadier Molina from second but, since Molina was running on contact and Theriot hit the ball right to the pitcher, he eliminated a great threat with Molina being thrown out at third.  Then, somehow, Theriot was unable to steal second even though he had a decent jump and Mark Melancon threw a curveball.  Still not sure how that happened.

David Freese's double play with nobody out in the fifth was a tough thing to take as well, as the Cards got bases loaded in that inning and just scored one.  A base hit in that situation might have made for a completely different story.

There still were Heroes in the game, though, most notably Lance Berkman, who came through with a two-run double to tie the game in the eighth and keep some hope alive.  With any luck, the Cards would have used that to go on and win, but they were just not able to do it.

To add injury to insult, it looks like Rafael Furcal won't play again in the regular season after straining a hamstring.  Furcal has probably been a bit overrated in his time here in St. Louis, but that's partly because of what he was replacing.  I'm guessing Nick Punto will get the start at short the next two games.

Albert Pujols had a number of chances last night to add to his 98 RBI, but he wasn't able to do so even though he went 2-5 to up his average to a bit over .301.  I'm afraid this is going to be like 2007, when he came up just short of getting to 100 runs.  I bet he winds up with just 99 this year.  Now, I'd love for him to hit a two-run homer in the first tonight and prove me wrong, but that's just my gut feeling.

The Cards have to put together a two-game winning streak and probably hope for a tiebreaker game now.  The Phillies aren't starting Cole Hamels tomorrow after all, instead having a bullpen game where Hamels may appear in the middle of the game somewhere.  That gives the Braves a big edge and you have to assume they'll win that one if you are the Redbirds.

However, tonight Derek Lowe goes for the Braves and his season has been pretty dreadful.  An ERA near 5 for the season and it's over 8 for the month of September.  While he could come out and give a great performance, the odds are in Philadelphia's favor tonight, which means the Cards have no choice but to win this one if they want a chance at October.

Jake Westbrook is on the mound for St. Louis and he's beaten the Astros twice this season.  Here are the numbers:

Carlos Lee 43 39 17 4 0 2 8 4 2 .436 .488 .692 1.181 0 0 3
Brett Wallace 12 9 5 1 0 0 2 1 3 .556 .667 .667 1.333 0 2 0
Chris Johnson 11 11 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0
Brett Myers 7 6 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 .000 .143 .000 .143 0 0 0
Clint Barmes 6 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .167 .167 .167 .333 0 0 0
Humberto Quintero 5 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0
Jose Altuve 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0
J.A. Happ 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0
Angel Sanchez 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 1
J.R. Towles 3 3 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .667 1.000 0 0 1
Total 96 88 28 6 0 2 10 6 12 .318 .375 .455 .830 0 2 5
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/27/2011.

Can Westbrook keep from being bitten by Carlos Lee? That could be the difference in a win or a loss tonight. A lot of these young guys he hasn't faced, though, and that could be a problem as well. Westbrook's been solid in September (2.61 ERA, though a 1.60 WHIP indicates he's danced out of some trouble) and hopefully that continues tonight in his last start for 2011, even if the Cards do make the playoffs. 

Henry Sosa has never faced the Cardinals, which always brings up warning flags.  He's been fairly mediocre in his nine starts, with an ERA approaching five (and over it for his September work).  He walks almost as many as he strikes out and his September WHIP is 1.76, so if the Cardinals are patient, they can likely put a lot of runners on.  Then again, they did that last night and see what it got them.

The math is simple: win or go home.  Two more games, two more wins and the Cards have a chance for more than 162 games.  It's time to see if they can work that problem successfully.

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Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
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Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
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John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
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Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%

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