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a hard shea's night

all those replacement-level hurlers gumming up the rosters, and the series kicks off with a pitcher's duel? whatever. to me, that game embodied what the playoffs are all about -- wait around, wait around, wait around until somebody makes a mistake and gets punished for it. if the rest of the games are as taut as that one, it's going to be a well-remembered series no matter who wins it.

it would have been sweet if the cardinals had found a way to steal that game, but glavine hasn't won 290 game by accident. last night he turned in his 13th quality start in 16 nlcs outings; the guy has made a career of frustrating good offenses in the playoffs. and the cardinals' offense isn't particularly good against left-handers anyway. just to pile on further, glavine came into the game on a month-long roll; in his 6 starts leading into last night's game (including his game 2 appearance in the nlds), he had compiled a 1.89 era and yielded only 7 hits per 9 innings. last night's was not a typical game for tommy -- his groundout / flyout ratio was 4-15, reversing his usual tendency (1.5:1 go/fo ratio this year), and he pitched from behind in the count a lot -- went to 2-0 on a third of the batters he faced. the cardinals clearly had a strategy to attack the first strike glavine threw; after the first inning (in which all three batters took a called strike one), 14 of 22 cardinals swung at strike one. 8 of those 14 swings resulted in a ball in play: 2 base hits and 6 outs, a .250 batting average. it should be noted, however, that 2 of the 6 outs were line drives to 3d baseman david wright in the 3d inning. so nothing wrong with the strategy; the cardinals' aggression yielded some well-hit balls.

weaver was effectively aggressive as well. as he did against san diego, he neutralized left-handers by pounding the strike zone with his curveball; one report i saw had him throwing 13 of 14 benders for strikes. he got ahead 0-1 on 12 of the 17 left-handed hitters he faced, 8 of them via a called strike one. but in the fateful 6th, the mets got aggressive; it was the 3d time through the lineup, and they made an adjustment, as good teams do. in innings 1 through 5, only 2 met batters swung at the first pitch; but in the 6th, after glavine led off with a groundout, three consecutive mets attacked on 0-0. all three hitters fouled the pitch off, but the last two of those at-bats (lo duca's and beltran's) ultimately produced the mets' winning runs.

couldn't have asked for any more out of weaver -- and don't overlook the bullpen, which stranded 4 runners in scoring position over the last 3 frames. if the cardinals continue to get pitching like that, this is going to be an interesting series. in the nlds, the mets held the dodgers to 1 run in the glavine start but gave up 5 apiece in the other 2 games; with competent pitching, l.a. could have taken both games. i don't think (knock on wood) st louis will lose another 2-0 game in this set.

i now understand why spiezio wasn't one of the two pinch-hitters in the 8th inning; they were saving him for the 9th, to bat for edmonds against wagner. fine; makes sense. but i still haven't figured out why tony didn't pinch-hit duncan for preston wilson later in that inning, after eckstein's two-out walk. guillermo mota owns wilson -- has struck him out 9 times in 18 at-bats over their careers, while allowing only 4 hits (none of them homers). with wagner on tap for the 9th, there was no reason to hold duncan back; he would have been the tying run against mota, and a bridge to getting pujols up there as the go-ahead run . . . . . . i don't know what they were waiting for.

the rolen question: at the very least they have to drop him to 7th in the order. he's an automatic out, a rally killer; can't have him coming up with men on base. i'd slot edmonds 4th, en'cion 5th, belliard 6th and rolen 7th -- if he stays in the lineup. i usually like him in there for his glove, but given the preponderance of left-handed hitters in the new york lineup, i dunno how critical a 3bman's glove is. i guess reyes might bunt his way on more readily if spiezio's in there . . . . . but i don't know if that's enough of a consideration to justify keeping rolen in the lineup. left-handed hitters batted 40 points higher than right-handers did against maine; spiezio'd give them another left-handed bat. as i think this through, i'm coming more firmly to the conclusion that rolen needs to sit for game 2.

i said at the outset i'd be happy enough if the cards won 2 of the first 5, and then take my chances on well-pitched games by carp and supps to close things out in games 6 and 7. tonight represents stl's best chance to grab 1 of those 2. i don't believe it is a "must-win" game -- i don't really believe in "must-win" games until a team is 1 loss from elimination -- but let's just say i'll feel a lot worse about the cards' chances if they lose it.

i am on the road today; should have time to sneak up a game thread mid-afternoon, home before the 1st pitch.