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Dying Quail Kills Cardinals

Posted on October 21, 2011 at 9:00 AM
Filed Under: St. Louis Cardinals | Texas Rangers
TS Eliot had it right.  The world didn't end last night, but the Rangers definitely didn't end the game with a blast.  Unfortunately, they didn't have to.

There's a lot of focus on Albert Pujols this morning and him deflecting the ball Jon Jay threw in enough that Yadier Molina couldn't get Elvis Andrus at second base, setting up first and second with nobody out.  There's no doubt that some of the blame has to go there, but it wasn't the biggest issue of the inning, I don't think.  Then again, your mileage may vary.  There were so many to choose from.

--Ron Washington sending Ian Kinsler with nobody out in a one-run game and Kinsler just getting in there ahead of the tag.

--Tony La Russa deciding to remove Jason Motte and his high-90s heater for Arthur Rhodes, who matched up well against Josh Hamilton for an out, but not the needed strikeout.

--If you are an "announcer jinx" type of person, you had to hate hearing Joe Buck say that the Cards were playing in their 107th World Series game and they'd never had a 1-0 win in that time span.

--Maybe you want to go back an inning or so, when Daniel Descalso came up with runners on and two out instead of David Freese, who would have been in that slot if TLR hadn't done his regular defensive replacement move.

For me, though, I can't help but think back to that flare that Kinsler hit to start the inning.  Another step closer and that ball is caught, there's one out, and Motte can go after Andrus with the crowd behind him and nobody on base.  I don't blame TLR too much for having the "no doubles" defense in there, because you don't want to start an inning with a runner on second.  Unfortunately, with Kinsler's speed, that's basically what happened.

I am also surprised somewhat that TLR did make the Rhodes/Motte move.  It makes sense if runners are on first and second, I think, because you can get the out and even if the runners move up, you only risk a tie game if you can get Michael Young out.  With a runner already at third, though, and nobody out, you need a strikeout.  Rhodes, for all his value, wasn't going to give you that most likely.  If Hamilton is fully healthy, the move is more defensible, but the idea that he was going to hit Motte's fastball (at least with any sort of authority) was really diminished by his groin injury.

You knew, though, that this was coming.  I give credit to Kevin who called it on Twitter before the inning started, and while I teased him a bit, I had a low-level anxiety going as well.  The narrative was that La Russa was a managing genius and the Cardinal bullpen was dominant.  There came a time when the narrative was going to switch and after all the play of TLR on Thursday after Game 1, that time was likely coming soon.

And you have to give all sorts of credit to Texas on this one, not even counting their gutsy play in the ninth inning.  They made the plays when they had to, especially Andrus having a diving stop and glove-hand flip that stopped a run from scoring in the fifth.  If Furcal's hit goes through, the game takes on a different tone.  It could have easily snowballed on Texas there, but they didn't let it.  Which is why they won.

Overlooked in all of this, though, is the incredible, outstanding work that Jaime Garcia did.  Seven scoreless innings after some shaky outings in the postseason.  Getting the key outs, and then looking in line to get the win when Allen Craig--again--got the big base hit to drive in the tiebreaking run off of Alexi Ogando--again.

Now, even though the Cards are tied 1-1 just like they were after Game 2 of the NLDS and Game 2 of the NLCS, there's a little less optimism in the fanbase, I think.  First off, in both of those series, they had split on the road and were coming home.  Now, the Cardinals have to go down to Arlington, which isn't necessarily the best place for this team--and the starting pitchers scheduled--to play.  The first two series, the Cards lost the first but won the second, meaning that happy flights and happy thoughts got to last for another day.  This time, there's no happy flight--for the first time in 18 tries--and you have a down note to dwell on until Saturday's first pitch.

The Cards are going to be playing in warmer weather (it should be around 75-80 at game time, instead of 40-45) in a smaller ballpark and having their less pitchers in that environment.  It's not exactly the mix that kept the low scores in the first two games, and the Cardinals really don't want to get into a slugfest.  Kyle Lohse has a 0.71 GB/FB ratio in 2011, while Edwin Jackson has a 0.79 this season.  (For comparison's sake, Chris Carpenter has a 0.88 this year in a down year for him, Garcia has a 1.15 and Jake Westbrook has a 1.47, the reason why some think he should get a start in Texas.)  The Cardinals will also being going up against two lefties that they've not seen before (or not much, at least), which typically has been an issue for them.  This may be Prince Fielder's revenge--if the Cards had started in Arlington and split, we'd feel a lot better.

Does that mean that this series is over?  Not by a long shot.

First off, c'mon, what would this team do with a 2-0 lead?  They can't do things the easy way, we know that by now.  If you are down 1-0 in games and 4-0 on the scoreboard to Cliff Lee in a best of five series and are able to come back and win, this setback isn't going to crush your spirits.

Secondly, this team, unlike probably any in recent Cardinal memory, is set up to really take advantage of the DH rule.  The Cards get to start Craig (which, granted, means he can't pinch hit with the game on the line, but you have to have tradeoffs) and make a potent lineup that much deeper.  With lefties coming, you'd think Furcal/Craig/Pujols/Lance Berkman/Matt Holliday/David Freese/Molina/Jay/Nick Punto.  That, my friends, is a darn solid lineup.  There aren't going to be very many easy innings with that one out there.

Third, it's true that the Cards have in the past struggled with new pitchers, especially lefties.  That said, the guys in this lineup have hit lefties and, down the stretch, even players they didn't have a lot of video on, they were able to beat.  Matt Harrison had a very solid year this year, there's no doubt about it.  He struggled in August, but righted the ship and was very effective down the stretch.  Interestingly, lefties hit him harder than righties, which may mean Skip Schumaker gets the call instead of Punto.  His ERA at home was .80 higher than his road ERA, closing in on four.  He can be hit.

Derek Holland in Game 4 might be the Cards' best chance of getting things back on the winning track, though.  Holland won a lot of games at home, but his ERA was 4.69 there.  Like Holland, his August was weak but September was strong.  His postseason ERA is over 5, which gives some hope as well.

Both of these guys are new to the World Series stage.  While Lohse and Jackson haven't necessarily played in the Series, they are more experienced in big games and hopefully won't rattle with the spotlight on them.

If this team is able to take the quality at-bats that we've seen them take, you like their chances of taking at least one of Games 3 and 4.  Then you have Carpenter in Game 5 and you'd hope to win that one.  Come back and you need one of 6 or 7, and Garcia would go in 6 to give the best chance.

Is it easy?  Heck no.  Is it doable?  Very.  And this team has a habit of doing the difficult.  As Mal says, "We have done the impossible and that makes us mighty."

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4 Comments

4 Comments | Leave a comment

I've been foolish enough in the past to try and read tea leaves based on momentum and stuff. This series is far from over and anything can still happen.

All that said, I think the Rangers are in better shape at this point than the Cardinals. Holland did pitch in the post season last year and got some big outs from the bullpen.

It's definitely not easy. I will say that Dan in my podcast with him said that Holland was the one most like Jaime Garcia, where something wrong can snowball on him. We'll see if that's true.

I think it's funny that, if the air's a bit lighter or the angle off the bat is a bit higher, Pujols gets a homer in the 8th inning, and who knows, maybe the Rangers still tie it, but certainly the 9th plays out differently and Pujols is not getting lambasted today.

I said right after it happened that if it was 5 degrees warmer, it'd been 2-0. Getting the ball out would have made a huge difference in the whole scheme of things. That said, opportunities for both sides earlier in the game and that's baseball. Maybe he'll get a couple tonight to make up for it!

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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

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%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
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%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
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%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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