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Game 120 Open Thread: August 17, 2006

First, a brief introduction. Like Valatan, I've been a lurker here at Viva El Birdos for the last year or so. Some of you may (or may not) know me from my currently defunct blog, Random Redbird Reasoning . Others may have seen me do a guest appearance at CardNilly where I had the pleasure of recapping the career of Greg Mathews. (Now that I've done guest spots on Viva El Birdos and CardNilly, I'm waiting for a phone call from the Love Boat - watch out Landers sisters!) lboros was kind enough to invite me to post today and I appreciate the offer. The irony of it is that I ended up on a last minute business trip to....Denver. So, I guess it's only appropriate that I write about the Cardinals from Colorado. I can only hope that the perspective from here will help me provide as good of a service as you are used to.

With the pleasantries out of the way, I guess we should move on to the Cardinals. I realized coming into this season that - odds were - this was not going to be a cakewalk season. While the Cardinals looked to be the best team in the Central yet again, I just didn't see any way that they could blow away the division for the 3rd year in a row. Too many things had gone the way of the Redbirds in 2004 and 2005 (in the regular season) to expect it to happen again. What I didn't expect, however, was the team to be quite this frustrating. Wednesday's game was a great example. The day after owning the Reds, the Cardinals gave up 5 gopher balls and Albert Pujols went 0 for 4, leaving 5 men on base. And if someone can explain to me why Timo Perez is not only on the roster of a team in playoff contention but starting and hitting 5th in the lineup, I'm all ears.

The Cardinals are so hard to figure out this year. It would be one thing if they were a consistently mediocre team. As is, they seem to be either really good or really bad - and lately it's been really bad. You've heard the numbers, but let's hear them again. The Redbirds are now 5-9 against the Reds, keeping them in a race that honestly should be over, considering that the Reds have been outscored by 29 runs this season. Against the NL Central, the Cardinals are 26-31, having been swept by the Pirates once and the Cubs twice. In fact, the Cubs are 10-3 against St. Louis. 19% of the Cubs wins this year are against the Cardinals!

Is it all doom and gloom? Of course not. We've all thought it, but I'll say it again - the fact that the Cardinals are still in 1st place at this point in the season is absolutely amazing. They still have their fate in their own hands, and if they manage to get into the playoffs...well, anything can happen. Heck, teams only good enough to win 85 regular season games have a shot at winning the World Series. Playing 5 or 7 games at a time with days off in between can hide a team's flaws (<cough>Houston</cough>), so you never know. Mulder could still come back strong, Encarnacion could get hot, Edmonds could get healthy, Timo Perez could get left off of the playoff roster...

Of course, they actually have to make the playoffs first, so let me get back to the real world.

Today's game has some interesting aspects. For one thing, it's the last regular season meeting between the two clubs, barring a tie. The Cardinals will still be in 1st place entering play tomorrow, but 2 and a half games is a world better than a half game lead. Another interesting thing to note about today's game is the strange day/night splits of these two clubs. The Cardinals are 30-13 in day games, while the Reds are 18-23. And perhaps most interesting of all is the trash-heap pitching match-up.

Today's starters are a combined 7-18 on the season with a 6.38 ERA over 194.2 innings, giving up a total of 34 home runs. We can call this a Marquis match-up, but only because these guys are in Jason's company. And to top if off, the Cardinals actually moved Weaver up a day in order to get this match-up. Based on what? His only half-way decent start for the Cardinals? Seems like grasping at straws to me.

Of course, you know it will be a 2-1 game.

Use this as the game thread for today. With a little luck, I will be able to submit another post this evening, celebrating the win and looking forward to another series with those Cardinal killing Cubs.