The Texas Rangers have lost three games this postseason, only one of which was pitched by Justin Verlander, and even in that game he wasn't the Verlander we saw all season long.
The Texas Rangers were shut out eight times during the season and one time this postseason.
The Texas Rangers lost 24 one-run games this season. In fact, they had a sub-.500 record in that category.
The Texas Rangers lost nine games against National League teams this season.
All of that is not to denigrate the Rangers in any fashion. They are a very solid team that will be very tough for the Cardinals to beat. If the Cards lose to them, it'll be pretty easy to tip your cap and say that they were the better team. There's no shame in losing to a team that is constructed in this manner.
However, they aren't perfect. They aren't a 110-win juggernaut that can't be stopped. Take away their 15-5 beatdown of Detroit in Game 6 and they are only averaging 4.4 runs a game this postseason, and that is including two extra-inning games where they put up four runs in the deciding frame. With a few breaks, we could be seeing a rematch of the 1968 and 2006 Series instead of facing a brand new opponent, as Detroit was in every one of those games save the last one.
There's a lot of talk about how potent the Rangers offense is and it is a very powerful one, no doubt about it. But good pitching beats good hitting (and vice versa, of course) and the Cardinals have some good pitching. If the Cardinals can be a ground ball team, if they can win the games Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia start, if they can continue to grind out at bats like they have for the last couple of months, they have an excellent chance to win the Series.
Not to play the "no one believes in us" card, but on the whole the national media is going for Texas, even if they expect a close series. And that's fine. Texas has a lot of reasons to pick them, but it's also true that the national media can be miserable at times with their prediction success. Absolutely no one picked this matchup at the beginning of the season. Absolutely no one picked this matchup at the beginning of the playoffs. I mean, look at this tweet from Tim Cowlishaw. Could you be more wrong? It obviously gets easier the closer you get to the end, just because you have fewer choices, but that doesn't mean that these people still can't pick the wrong one.
So tonight it's Carpenter vs. C.J. Wilson. That's it. You play one game at a time and you go from there. The Cards need to win this game to keep home field advantage, to get an early lead in the series and keep some pressure on Texas, to make sure they don't squander a Carpenter start. It's not over if they don't win, of course--we've seen exactly how well this team plays with its proverbial back against the wall--but there's going to be a lot more ease in Cardinal Nation if they are able to pull it out. Carpenter says his elbow feels fine, so let's hope we can see another dominating performance out of him.
With that out of the way, let's take a quick look at some of the stories floating around. One great thing about the Cards being in the World Series is that there are a TON of Cardinal stories floating around everywhere you look (as you can tell by the lengthy list below). It's a beautiful thing.
One of the stories that I wish hadn't really been written right now is Brian Burwell's column on the future of Albert Pujols. I get that this is possibly the last time in Cardinal red for Pujols, but is this really the time to be speculating about his free agency, especially in a St. Louis newspaper? It seems to me that there is plenty of time to do that after the Series is over.
That said, there were a couple of good things that came out of that article, besides Burwell's personal conclusions that Pujols wants to stay. (Which, by the by, I believe as well and I've been mentally working on a post about why--and I'll write that post after the postseason.) First off, you can tell the team is still loose and enjoying themselves. Pujols's ribbing of Arthur Rhodes, asking the Rangers if they wanted him back, is a sign of that.
The other is this quote:
I just wish I could spend more time with Stan. He's sick now and not able to come around as much. But just last week (before the home opener of the NLCS) I went over and rubbed his arm and told him to give me a couple of those postseason hits that I know he still has in him.
If Albert Pujols is getting hits from Stan Musial, man, how can the Cardinals lose this thing, you know? Texas should just save their time and effort!
There's a lot of talk around about Lance Berkman and how he rejected the Rangers back in the offseason because he thought they were an average team. (Of course, he also killed a trade to them in August as well, which the Cardinals are glad that he did.) I think it's awesome to see Berkman not try to shy away from those comments, not try to soften them or add context to them, but to come out and say, "Look, I said that and I was wrong." Not too many people care to flat out say they were wrong in front of a national media horde, so major kudos to Berkman for that.
Jake Westbrook and Skip Schumaker are on the World Series roster, Kyle McClellan and Adron Chambers are off of it. The McClellan move was pretty obvious, even to him, and it's not surprising that if Schumaker is healthy, the Cards would rather him and his experience over Chambers. Chambers has a lot of talent and his speed would be nice, but he's looked pretty overmatched at the plate during this postseason.
To get you primed and ready for today, you can hear my conversation with Rangers blogger Dan Edmonson on the right hand side of this blog (or find the link on my Conversations page) and I will be on a Fayetteville (AR) radio station today at 1:30 Central time talking about the Redbirds. You can listen on 92.1 FM if you are up in that area or, most likely if you are reading this, you can listen live on their website. Hope you will tune in to see how many stumbles I can have in a 10 minute window!
That long and storied book known as Cardinal baseball history gets another chapter tonight. Let's hope it is gripping, thrilling and ultimately satisfying. Go Cardinals!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball