last night's loss is meaningless in and of itself -- as meaningless as a win would have been. the game's most important question -- is mulder healthy? -- got answered resoundingly in the affirmative, which is far more important than the game's outcome.
unfortunately, some other ongoing questions related to the cardinals' postseason chances got answered in the negative last night. questions like: can we count on larry walker to be in the lineup every day in october? is the left side of our bullpen -- a big question mark all season -- even just a little bit trustworthy? is our closer good enough? can we trust la russa to resist making unorthodox, erratic late-inning tactical decisions?
maybe it was the playoff-like atmosphere in the ballpark last night; or maybe it was the opponent -- last year's nlcs foe, and very possibly this year's as well. for whatever reason, the bullpen's thrice-repeated failure to close out the game, and tony's unforgivable decision to walk the winning run into scoring position in the 13th inning, loomed as troubling portents. playoff games -- especially on the road -- are often like this: fought out pitch by pitch, with zero margin for error. so it was difficult to watch the cards err again and again in the final five innings -- and all too easy to look forward, to october, and ask: will the cardinals' vulnerabilities prove fatal?
based on what we saw last night, we'd have to answer: they might. they very well might.
isringhausen's blown save was his second in a row against houston, to go along with the blow (also costing mulder a win) in the first game after the all-star break. flash back to last year's playoffs, when izzy lost game 5 and blew a save in game 6 . . . . . do the astros have his number? the answer is: yeah, they pretty much do. taking the last two seasons together (including the playoffs), izzy has a 4.35 era against the astros in 20 2/3 innings, with 4 homers allowed, one loss, and 4 blown saves in 13 attempts. worse yet, when entering the game to protect a one-run lead, izzy has converted just 1 save in 5 opportunities against the astros over the last two years. with a larger margin for error, he is 8 for 8. . . . . .
i'm not trying to ruin anybody's holiday weekend. just being realistic, acknowledging weaknesses where they exist. whatever izzy has done in the past, there's nothing to say that he won't convert four one-run saves against the astros this october. there's nothing to say that ray king won't get his act together and get the job done, either.
but what we saw last night was not meaningless. the game exposed chronic weaknesses that could hurt, or kill, the cardinals in october. and that's why it was aggravating to watch.
pretty good pitching pairing today . . . . .