St. Louis Cardinals drop first game of NLDS vs. Phillies

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01: Starting pitcher Kyle Lohse #26 of the St. Louis Cardinals (L) talks with catcher Yadier Molina #4 (R) after giving up a run to the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning of Game One of the National League Division Series at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Reasonable people will disagree about Kyle Lohse's sixth-inning performance and what Tony La Russa should or shouldn't have done about it, but the ensuing bullpen struggles will probably mute the volume on both sides of the conversation—the Cardinals just didn't pitch well, despite doing better than expected against Roy Halladay and putting some runs up against the front of their bullpen. 

(Personally, while we're still having the conversation, I don't think La Russa was wrong here unless you're willing to pull every pitcher on the Cardinals' roster after five innings for the bullpen effect of pitchers performing better in one-inning stints. Lohse is an above-average starter and he'd pitched extremely well before the Howard home run, up to and briefly including that at-bat. The case for pulling him after a weak single in a tie ballgame seems like either panic, an excessively pessimistic view of Lohse, or hindsight.)

The hitting they'll need to keep doing, with Cliff Lee and (third excellent pitcher) next in line, but they're already better than the Phillies' hitters; the pitchers are the part of the Cardinals that will need to play over their collective head to have a chance at advancing to the NLCS. Kyle Lohse wasn't able to do that, but he had farther up the ladder to go than Chris Carpenter will tomorrow. 

The good news—if you want to take some good news from this to-be-expected-but-not-to-have-been-expected-like-this loss—is that Rafael Furcal played the entire game without issue and Matt Holliday came in as a pinch-hitter. One of the keys to the pitchers playing over their collective head will be a defense that is neither gimpy nor Theriot-infused. If Furcal and Holliday are healthy and able to start, this is an offense that really can outscore the Phillies.

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