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Tournament of Champions, Round 2: day 1

there are 5 series in round 2, and the winners join the 11 st louis championship teams to form the final 16-team bracket. the round 2 matchups:

1885 v 2000
1888 v 2004
1928 v 1968
1943 v 2005
1985 v 1996

we'll open two series today; the Game 1 summaries are after the jump. for a complete tourney update, check at Cardinal70's tracker page; here are today's boxes if you just want a quick look-see:

Game 1, 1943 v 2005
Game 1, 1888 v 2004

Game 1

summary by 26th Man

After winning its first-round play-in series, the 2005 team takes on the 1943 National League champions.

The 1943 squad, of course, featured a young (22 years old) Stanley Frank Musial, who would win the first of his three NL MVP awards. His Triple Crown numbers weren't particularly eye-popping --- just 13 homers and 81 RBIs --- but it was a low-scoring league: only one NL team scored more than 700 runs that year. Musial's 81 RBI ranked 5th in the league, and he finished first in batting, OBP, slugging, hits, doubles, and triples. He deserved the award. Finishing second and fifth, respectively, in the MVP race were catcher Walker Cooper and his brother, Mort, who was MVP the previous season. That 1943 team was part of an incredible strech that brought four pennants (and three championships) in five seasons to St. Louis and dominated both sides of the ledger. The '43 team was the lone pennant winner in that stretch to lose in the World Series; the Yankees beat them in 5 games.

The 2005 squad, while nearly as dominant as its counterpart, represents the end of a similar stretch of dominance in the first half of this decade: four 95-win or better team in six years. Only one of those teams won a pennant, and none won a championship --- it would be left to the relatively weak 2006 team to bring one of those home. Like 1943, the 2005 team is led by a first-time MVP award-winner, Albert Pujols. Kind of ironic, since Albert didn't have a particularly good year by his standards. He set career lows in doubles and RBIs and recorded his second-lowest slugging average, and he only the league in one major category, runs scored.

Odd coincidence for this matchup: Both teams have starting outfielders named Walker and Sanders. The lineups:

2005 1943
David Eckstein, ss Lou Klein, 2b
Larry Walker, rf Harry Walker, cf
Albert Pujols, 1b Stan Musial, rf
Jim Edmonds, cf Walker Cooper, c
Reggie Sanders, lf Whitey Kurowski, 3b
Scott Rolen, 3b Ray Sanders, rf
Mark Grudzielanek, 2b Danny Litwhiler, lf
Yadier Molina, c Marty Marion, ss
Chris Carpenter, p Mort Cooper, p

Our series begins at the corner of Grand and Dodier, with Mort Cooper (aka The Barrelmaker) on the bump for the home team. Eckstein greets him with a grounder back through the box for a base hit, but he's promptly erased by a Larry Walker double-play ball. MVPujols lines out to Marty Marion to end the top half of the first.

And there you have the basic storyline for Game 1: After the Eckstein single, Cooper set down the next 14 batters before yielding an inconsequential single to 2005 Scott Rolen in the top of the fifth. The 2005 Cards don't get a runner past first base until the seventh, and that only comes as a result of a Walker Cooper passed ball. That mistake draws a noogie from older brother Mort in the dugout after the inning, which ends on a Reggie Sanders grounder.

Cy Young Carpenter does not fare as well. As in Game 1 of his first-round series (when he gave up 6 runs in the first two innings), he comes out flat. The bottom of the first opens with two loud outs before a Musial single and a Walker Cooper double, which plates a hustling Musial. Whitey Kurowski leaves the bat on his shoulder and Cooper at second base to end the first inning with the 1943 squad up 1-0.

Carpenter finds himself in trouble again in the second and third innings, wiggling out thanks to a timely double play and strikeout, respsectively. After a perfect fourth it looks like he might have found a groove, but it all comes apart in the fifth. Marion doubles to left-center, and Mort Cooper sacrifices him to third. A Lou Klein single scores Marion, and Harry "The Hat" Walker singles past a drawn-in Grudzielanek as Klein advances to third. Musial then smashes a liner to left that scores Klein and sends The Hat to third. Carpenter retires Walker Cooper on a shallow fly to center field but then uncorks a wild pitch with Whitey Kurowski at the plate to score The Hat. Kurowski puts Carpenter out of his misery with a ground-rule double down the left-field line, scoring Musial and sending Carp to the showers.

On in relief, Brad Thompson wastes no time in allowing a walk and two singles before getting Mort Cooper to pop up to end the fifth. The 1943s send 11 men to the plate and increase their lead to 7-0. Lou Klein opens the sixth with a leadoff homer over the 422-ft sign in center, and Thompson comes out a batter later in favor of Cal Eldred. Puppies in the Greater St. Louis area scatter.

The 2005ers, playing for pride, mount a last-ditch rally against Mort Cooper in the 9th inning. Eckstein singles hard to center, and Pujols draws a walk after a Larry Walker popup. Edmonds, however, goes fishing, and Reggie Sanders grounds to third to preserve the six-hitter. It's the first shutout of the tournament: 1943 Cardinals 8, 2005 Cardinals 0.


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Game 1

summary by Zubin

In case you missed it, the 1888 team dispatched the 1987 squad in seven games, winning the final two at home. When I sized up that pairing last week I wrote about how similar the 1987 and 1888 squads were. Well, this week 1888 faces a team that could hardly be more different.

1888 is a very good team simply because of its pitching. The team was a mound powerhouse, posting an aggregate ERA+ of 155 (55% better than the league average). While they were second in scoring that year, their team OPS+ was only 98, placing them 5th among 8 teams in the American Association. The team was also the last (and arguably the weakest) incarnation of Chris Von der Ahe's and Charlie Comiskey's championship run. After the 1887 World Series loss to Detroit, Von de Ahe went about dismantling his team. He sold star pitchers/ right fielders Bob Caruthers and David Foutz to the Brooklyn Grays (the precursors to today's Los Angeles Dodgers) for $8,250 and $5,500 dollars, respectively. Catcher "Honest Jack" Bushong was also shipped to Brooklyn for $4,500. Center fielder Curt Welsh, famous for his $15,000 slide (more about that another time) and shortstop Bill Gleason were traded to Philadelphia for middle infielder Chippy McGarr, backup catcher Jocko Milligan, and $3,000. He dumped half the starting lineup and two-thirds of the pitching staff in one winter --- in spite of which, team captain and manager Charlie Comiskey led the team to an unprecedented fourth pennant the following year.

In contrast, 2004 has a powerhouse offense and good pitching. The Cardinals ranked first in the league in scoring with 855 runs that season and posted composite OPS+ of 113 (also first in the league). The middle of the lineup featured four Hall of Fame-caliber (or close to it) sluggers in Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, and Scott Rolen. The '04 Cards also were second in the league in pitching, allowing only 659 runs and posting an ERA+ of 114. Few would argue with the assertion that this team was the finest of the DeWitt / Jocketty / LaRussa era. Indeed, it's pretty safe to say that this is the best Cardinal team of the last 60 years.

The advantages on offense and defense favor 2004, but the starting pitching clearly favors 1888. However, even that is tempered somewhat by the 2004 bullpen. If the games are close, 2004's bullpen depth should give Sim LaRussa an edge. Of course, normalization across eras will be key in this series, just as it was in round one. From what we saw in that round, I have to believe the normalization algorithms won't be kind to Comiskey's club. 1888 struggled to beat the 1987 team and actually got outscored in that 7-game series, 31-34. I can't imagine the Browns will have any chance against 2004. I am predicting a sweep.

Today's game pits Chris Carpenter against Silver King. Since 1888 has the better win percentage, they have home-field advantage. The lineups:

2004 1888
Edgar Renteria, ss Arlie Latham, 3b
Larry Walker, rf Yank Robinson, 2b
Albert Pujols, 1b Tip O'Neill, lf
Jim Edmonds, cf Charlie Comiskey, 1b
Scott Rolen, 3b Tommy McCarthy, cf
Reggie Sanders, lf Harry Lyons, rf
Tony Womack, 2b Jocko Milligan, c
Mike Matheny, c Bill White, ss
Chris Carpenter, p Silver King, p

Renteria strikes out to start the game, and Walker grounds out to first. Pujols comes to the plate and he belts one deep to center. It looks like it may go, but Tommy McCarthy goes way back and hauls it in on the track. Albert hit the ball 415 feet, but to the wrong part of the park.

Arlie Latham gets things started for the Browns with a walk, and he's immediately off to the races, stealing second. Yank Robinson grounds out (on what would otherwise have been a double play) to get Latham to third. O'Neill tries pulling a Chris Carpenter slider but can only ground the ball to the left side while Latham holds. But with two away, Comiskey smacks a single to center. Latham scores, and the Browns lead 1-0.

With two outs in the second, Sanders knocks one that falls in just out the reach of the charging McCarthy in center; the 2004s have their first hit. Showing that his powerful team can play small-ball too, Sanders then swipes second, giving Womack a chance to tie it. Comiskey, contesting every run, calls for an intentional walk of Womack, preferring to face Matheny. That's a questionable move this early in the game, but Matheny smacks the first pitch he sees on the ground; it hops into Yank Robinson's hands, and he shuffles it to Bill White for the force at second.

It's the Cardinals' last threat for quite a while; they go down in order in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th. Carpenter's handling the 1888 lineup pretty easily, but in the 5th Jocko Milligan shocks everyone by lofting a fastball deep to left field. Sanders races back to the track, to the wall . . . . . it's gone. In case you were wondering, the 1888 Browns hit just 36 homers all year. Milligan had 5 of those in 219 at-bats, by far the best HR frequency on the team (1 per 44 at-bats). It's 2-0 Browns, and the inning has just begun. The 1888s string together three consecutive singles to bring their best hitter, Tip O'Neill, to the plate with only 1 out. O'Neill goes the other way with the pitch, but it reaches Womack on one hop; he throws to Renteria, who relays to Pujols, and the Cardinals are out of the inning. Instead of falling way behind, the 2004s still trail by only 2 runs, well within reach of their powerful bats. The momentum of the game seems to have shifted.

Or not. Silver King is dealing. He sets the Cardinals down in order again in the 6th, and then again in the 7th; that's 16 in a row. The string reaches 17 before Womack singles with one out in the 8th inning. It's still only 2-0, and the tying run is at-bat . . . . but it's Matheny. Sim Tony lets him bat; Mike strikes out. Mabry pinch-hits for Carpenter; he grounds out to second. End of rally.

And, after the Browns add two in the 8th against Ray King, end of game. The Browns take game 1 by a score of 4-0; the 2004 Cardinals get just 2 hits. So the 2004 and 2005 teams both get shutout today; Carpenter loses both games.