Well, I'll admit it. I've had little to no confidence in the Cardinals since around July. They flounder around like they are half-dead for the majority of the season, doing just enough to stay ahead in a weak division. Then they nearly give it away only to be helped by the Atlanta Braves and a guy with a dyed-red soul patch. When they got to the playoffs, I'll be honest, I thought they'd get shut down. I could see the reasons why they could win, I just didn't think that they would. But now here they are, up 2-1 on the team that was by far the best in the National League. The possibilities for winning in front of their home crowd look pretty sunny now, only having to dispatch of the meat-headed Oliver Perez, and Tom Glavine on only 3 days rest. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here.
Bullet point thoughts on yesterday's action:
- Jeff Suppan shut down a very tough Met lineup that looked to be hungover after Friday's late-nighter. Soup was on his game by hitting his spots, adding a little, taking off a little, and had the Met hitter's completely off balance. And when Suppan did fall behind, he'd come back when he needed to, getting grounders or weak pop flies. It was brilliant. Dude's just a big-game pitcher.
- Traschel, on the contrary was disaster for the Mets and couldn't get anyone out, giving up 5 hits, 5 walks and yielding a homer to Jeff Suppan of all people, a testament to how poor he really was. Weird fact-Soup has 2 career big league homers, and both are against Steve Traschel.
- Scott Spiezio has done it again. I saw on the TV the fans littered throughout the crowd with red soul patches, and whoever is the vendor of those things will be a very rich man by the end these 3 games. That is now 3 clutch hits from Speez that have just buoyed the Cardinals pennant hopes- Against the Brewers on 9/30 with the Astros nipping at the team's heels, Friday night and now Saturday night. And all of them have cleared the bases and end up with him standing on third. How random. Combined with his previous playoff numbers with the Rally-Monkey Angels, Speez is now 15-21 with runners in scoring position. He now has 25 RBI's in 21 postseason games. Scott Spiezio- Mr. October ladies and gentleman.
- Suppan was greatly helped by his defense. Preston Wilson cutting down Valentin trying to stretch a single into a double in the 5th, David Eckstein made a great play to his left and Scott Rolen had a couple of dandies as well. This team is pretty good defensively, but they seem to have really stepped it up this October.
- Darren Oliver is why I'm a little nervous about tonight's game. Sure, he had a nice season in the Met's bullpen this season. But he is what he is, which is a mediocre lefty at his very best. The Card's lineup who came roaring into the game against the righty Traschel went out like lambs, as Oliver allowed only 3 hits in his 6 innings and gave the Met bullpen some much needed rest after the marathon Friday. This team just can't beat lefty pitching, but Perez has plenty of experience beating himself. Get the laundry carts out of his way.
- Ok, I'm gonna throw this out there. My wife and I noticed something while Rolen was at bat. Underneath his little turtleneck there appeared to be...a hickey. He's a married guy, so I'm assuming it wasn't from a "slump-buster", at least I sure hope not, but we've all heard those kind of stories. Coincidentally, Rolen, who's gone 1 for 14 in the postseason, got his first hit since game 1 of the Division Series. Hey, a man's wife can help a guy get out of a slump, right guys? (My apologies to the women reading this) He was also putting some good swings for the first time in a while, missing the third base line by inches on several occasions. That's a lot different from the pop fly Rolen we've witnessed lately.
Friday night clearly let the air out of the balloon for the Mets. It was a game they should have won but the Cardinals fought their way back against the best bullpen in the NL. Losing that game, especially against the likes of Scott Spiezio and So Taguchi, had to be disheartening. You could see the looks on their faces and in their eyes that their confidence is shaken, and it needs to stay that way. I feel good about tonight's matchup, with Reyes well-rested and ready to go but if Oliver Perez can channel 2004 this could be a long game, decided by which bullpen will flinch first. I expect with a rested bullpen from Soup's great start, that Reyes will have a short leash tonight. The question is which Reyes will we see?
- A.) The brilliant, aggressive Reyes who 1 hit the White Sox, fearlessly throwing strikes at a World Champion lineup that had just hammered the Cardinals for 33 runs in previous 2 games.
- B.) The "tired-arm" Reyes who got killed for 7 runs in 2.1 innings against Arizona on 9/8, and couldn't make it out of the 1st inning against the Brewers Oct. 1st.
- C.) The solid Reyes, who gets plenty of K's with his fastball/change-up combo, but labors to stay under 100 pitches through 5 innings.
I'd be pretty happy with C. Suffice to say this is the biggest game Reyes has ever pitched, and I think one thing we have figured out about the kid is that he ain't afraid. The first inning or two will be a good indicator on how this game will turn out. We remember the one of the last times a rookie started under LaRussa, as he who will not be named was a disaster in 2000 in the Division Series against the Braves. But the very last rookie pitcher to start a postseason game under LaRussa was Bud Smith, who pitched good enough for the win in Game 4 of the DS againt Arizona, giving up 1 run in 5 innings. Anyway, this game could very well seperate Anthony from a might've been to a 'been'. Let's all hope Anthony has the mental fortitude many of us think he has.
Lastly, congrats to the Tigers for making it to the World Series in grand fashion. Leyland and LaRussa are very good friends, it would be great to see these two go head to head in the World Series in a '68 rematch. Ex-Card Placido Polanco was the MVP of the series, close friend of Albert Pujols and godfather of his son, AJ. A lot of ties there.
Game thread hopefully to be up around 6'ish.
Update [2006-10-15 10:53:35 by lboros]: nice post erik --- sorry to intrude, but my cousin just e-mailed this item to me from the new york post: