Once more, for those in the back

Ok, now that we’ve all had a chance to decompress following the 9th inning debacle in game 2 – and the lynch mob has had an opportunity to put the torches away – maybe we can settle down and realize that Matt Holliday is not solely to blame for the Cards’ game 2 loss. Dave Cameron said it quite well over at fangraphs yesterday. I’ll admit that I was never a huge fan of the Holliday trade, I’m not one of those who believes that the reason we’re in the playoffs is b/c of Holliday, and I’ve got serious reservations about throwing him $90 or $100 M this offseason. That said, his error Thursday meant that, rather than having a 100% chance of winning the game, we "only" had an 86.7% chance of winning the game. Many have pointed out the obvious – that if Holliday catches the ball, we win the game. Well, if Ryan Franklin gets either of the next 2 hitters out – Casey Blake and Ron Belliard, btw (not exactly A-Rod and Teixeira!) – we win the game also. And if he gets only 1 out of the next 4 hitters out – Blake, Belliard, Russell Martin and the always potent Mark Loretta – we go to extra innings and still have a chance. Ryan Franklin’s transgressions were much greater than Holliday’s.

Lost in all the talk all summer about Ryan Franklin’s metamorphosis and how his use of the cutter rather than the slider has changed his career was any sort of discussion about how Franklin was pitching over his head. He simply was never as good as he was pitching and some regression should have been expected. He pitched extremely well in 2007 as well and regressed at the end of the year. And boy has he regressed this year. The pen was, in my opinion – and I mentioned it several times here and elsewhere – our biggest area of concern entering the playoffs and they haven’t exactly redeemed themselves in the first two games. They’ve given up 3 runs (only 1 earned) in 3.2 innings while yielding 11, yes 11, base runners in those 3.2 innings.

The irony now is that our chances are dependent on another pitcher who made a huge leap forward this year and has regressed somewhat as the year has drawn to a close. Joel Pineiro’s regression hasn’t been as dramatic as Franklin’s, but after being nearly unhittable most of the summer, Pineiro’s August ERA was 4.19 and his September/October ERA was 4.98. After giving up 3 home runs in the first 4 months of the season, he gave up 3 in August and 5 in September/October. His walks are slightly up as well, but the biggest problem is that he’s not getting the ball down like he did earlier in the season. My guess is that Tony will have little patience with him today. I wouldn’t expect him to pitch deep into the game and we could see John Smoltz or Kyle Lohse early – and for multiple innings – today.

Though Tony and Duncan have to this point been mum on the subject, rumors abound that the plan is to bring Chris Carpenter back on 3 days’ rest should we reach game 4. Carp’s never started a game on less than 4 days’ rest in his career. It is, however, almost inarguably, the correct decision. Doing so allows the team to use Adam Wainwright on 4 days’ rest in game 5. The bottom line is this – we have to win 3, 4, and 5 in order to advance and which 2 starters do you want going in games 4 and 5 – Smoltz and Carpenter, Lohse and Carpenter, or Carpenter on short rest and Wainwright. I’m going w/ door #3, w/o a doubt. Maybe Carp will only be able to go 5 or 6 innings but 5 or 6 innings from Carp should be better than 5 or 6 from Lohse or Smoltz.

Finally, for all the talk about the Cards’ offensive ineptitude over the first 2 games, our offense hasn’t performed all that badly. We’ve batted .300/.379/.422 over the first 2 games. An .800 OPS against the Dodgers’ pitching is nothing to sneeze at. Ryan is clearly overmatched at the plate and belongs hitting at the bottom of the order, particularly against righties, but the others have performed fairly well at the plate. The possible exception is Pujols, who’s just 1 for 6 w/ a single and 3 walks in 2 games. We also have 7 extra base hits but all that offense has just manifested itself into 5 runs. We haven’t gotten the hits we need w/ runners on base and we do have just 1 homer in 2 games, but if we keep getting runners on base, we’ll be ok. We need to put a better hitter in the 2 hole – not Colby, I don’t like sticking our only 2 lefties right next to each other in the order -- and get more runners on base in front of Albert and then get a hit or 2 behind him. Hopefully JP can get us through 5 or 6 innings w/ just a couple of runs given up. If we can get it to game 4, I think we’ve got a decent chance. If not, there’ll be lots of time to ponder what might have been.

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