according to miklasz (scroll down 5 comments or so), la russa and dunc may give jeff suppan the start in game 2 of the nlcs vs houston. "They're leaning Suppan for Game 2 -- nothing firm," he writes, with mulder to pitch game 3 if he's ready; otherwise morris.
a fascinating proposition on any number of counts, the first being: sounds like they're committed to using marquis in relief. if so that's a damn good decision, for reasons i've outlined before -- and i'm neither the first nor the only one to make the case. of course, we don't know if they plan to use jason as a setup guy (ie, the replacement for al reyes) or waste him in long relief. but the bullpen desperately needs reinforcements, without which -- and i'm serious here -- it's painfully easy to see the cardinals losing the series.
before you wave off that statement as hysterical chicken-littleism, compare how the two bullpens performed against each other in the 16 head-to-head hou-stl games this year. i've only included the stats of pitchers currently on playoff rosters; these numbers aren't polluted by pulsipher, cali, journell, et al:
i've noted elsewhere that the astros appear to have is'hausen's number. they also have tavarez's: in 9 innings of work vs the astros this year he yielded 18 baserunners and 6 earned runs. of the five wins the astros notched against st louis this year, three came against is'hausen and tavy. . . . . . last year's series turned on the bullpens: we beat theirs three times, they beat ours twice. if it comes down to the pens again this year, the cardinals stand a much poorer chance.
but adding marquis to the pen might improve their odds considerably. in 5 starts vs the 'stros jason went 4-0 with a 3.22 era and a 1.22 whip. he walked only 6 guys (vs 20 strikeouts) and gave up only 3 homers in 36 innings, with a groundout-flyout ratio of better than 2 to 1. and he was airtight at minute maid park, going 2-0 with a 2.18 era. . . . so based on all that, why not start him in game 2 instead of suppan? there's a case to be made, but my own belief is that jason provides more marginal value coming out of the pen. in the rotation, jason's not a huge upgrade (if any) over suppan; but in relief, i think he's a giant upgrade over thompson or eldred -- or tavarez, for that matter. though jason's relief role remains undefined -- hell, by tomorrow we could be hearing he's back in the rotation -- i'm encouraged by this bit of news.
more implications: in theory the game 2 starter would also pitch in game 6, which means supps -- whom tony wouldn't commit to for even one start in the nlds -- now stands to pitch twice vs houston. i'm not challenging that decision, merely trying to follow the logic (which is probably my big mistake . . . ). also of interest: morris apparently won't get the ball for game 2 even though it falls on thursday, morris's natural turn -- given la russa's steadfast loyalty to morris for round 1, it's noteworthy that tony seems to be pushing him back here. i'm not sure the move will advantage matt: he has a long history of pitching well in busch stadium, and he had two solid starts vs the astros at busch in 2005, holding them to a .238 avg and a .644 ops. his gopher-ball problem would seem to be magnified in that phone booth they play ball in down in houston. . . . . then again, if morris pitches game 3 he'd be in line to pitch game 7 if the series extends. and if he pitches game 4 he'll probably be paired with brandon backe, seemingly a lopsided advantage for st louis. i well remember what backe did to the cardinals last year, but that ain't happening again. the cards pounded him both times they faced him this season, and the braves roughed him up plenty yesterday.
it's also reported that la russa, speaking on kmox today, shot down the suggestion that anthony reyes be added to the bullpen corps for round 2. nobody thought he would be, but it still never hurts to ask.