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The Road Ahead

My Dad’s in town this weekend and we were watching yesterday’s game along with my brother. When he still smoked, every time the game would tighten he would disappear for a time as he went outside to crush one of his cancer sticks. Now that he’s quit, he has to find something else to occupy his time when he gets too nervous to watch. After Ludwick’s homer in the second, I told him "If we can’t hold a touchdown lead with Wainwright on the mound, I don’t want to watch the rest." As the game became more and more in doubt, he kept disappearing to look at the flowers in the front bed, get some water in the kitchen, whatever. Anything to avoid watching a gradually shrinking Cardinal lead.

Somehow the good guys managed to hold on to yesterday’s game, even as we continued to hemorrhage starting pitchers. It was reported that Wainwright sprained his middle finger during yesterday’s game but today’s news that he heard a "pop" and is heading to St. Louis to have doctors examine it is disconcerting, to say the least. According to the article, the wagonmaker was told that he might just need a few days off and some ice and his finger would be "perfect" or the other possibility, according to Wainwright, is "not perfect." Sounds like surgery’s a possibility. Damn! On a finger?????????? I guess that’s the nature of pitching.

Wainer’s injury, of course, comes on the heels of the news that Wellemeyer, last month’s NL pitcher of the month, will miss his next start but, hopefully, will not need to go on the DL. While I was getting the ribs going yesterday afternoon, my Dad told me that the Houston idiots calling the game reported that Wellemeyer had structural damage to his elbow. My reaction? --  Right in line w/ red baron’s thread yesterday -- "There goes the season" I said. Of course, the MRI showed NO STRUCTURAL DAMAGE to Wellemeyer’s elbow. I don’t know if the Astros’ idiots got it wrong or my Dad misheard and don’t really care. At least it appears, for now, that all Wellemeyer needs is a little rest. Nevertheless, they’re dropping like flies in the rotation.

To complicate things, Parisi pitched poorly and Clement (has he really become our savior?) is still at least a couple of weeks away from returning. There’s no word really on Pineiro – we just continue to be told that he’s not ready to be activated. Boggs is now in Pineiro’s spot. Presumably Reyes will come up and take either Wellemeyer’s or Wainer’s next start. Will we see a bullpen start soon? Is Brad Thompson near being activated? Whoever, these last 2 injuries mean we now have 6 injured starting pitchers (Carp, Mulder, Clement, Pineiro, Wainwright, Wellemeyer) and 7 if you count Brad Thompson. Mo built depth into the rotation b/c he knew that some were already injured or had tenuous injury histories and we’re still running out of starters.

At least the team is off Monday. Maybe that means that Boggs can be slotted into Wellemeyer’s start Tuesday, Looper comes back Wednesday and I suppose Reyes will go Thursday. Lohse goes Friday and then we’ll need someone Saturday unless we go w/ Boggs on just 3 days rest – not an option I favor. Perhaps Wellemeyer could be ready to go Saturday. If not, well….I dunno. At least Mo, Tony and Dunc have about a week to figure that out. It seems as though Wainer may have to go on the DL just to allow Reyes (and possibly Thompson?) to be called up to start next Saturday. Needless to say, the next week or two is going to test their creativity.

The schedule’s about to get more complicated than it’s been to this point as well. We’ve got our first visit to Cincinnati and then we play the surging Phillies before playing AL teams for 12 games – 9 of which are on the road in Boston, Detroit and KC. Following our trip across the state, the team gets to face the Mets. This will not be an easy road to navigate as the team approaches the All-Star break so now seems a pretty good time to look at what our schedule has looked like for the first 64 games.

Below is a table of the records, the Pythagorean records, the number of home and road games played, and the opponent’s winning percentages for each of the teams in the NL Central to date:

TEAM W - L Pyth W-L Home/Road Opp. W %
Cubs 39-24 41-22 34/29 .478
Cards 37-27 35-29 34/30 .475
Brewers 32-30 30-32 29/33 .520
Astros 32-31 30-33 26/37 .516
Reds 30-33 30-33 29/34 .519
Pirates 29-33 28-34 31/31 .533

Now, some of this is skewed by the fact that teams don’t play themselves. As long as we play well, our opponent winning % will be a little lower than other teams’ b/c while we’re playing the Pirates, for instance, they’re playing us. You’d expect the opponent winning % to increase as the team’s winning % decreases and, for the most part here, it does. The Brewers have played a pretty tough schedule, as evidenced by the fact that their opponent winning % is higher than either the ‘stros or the Reds and they’ve played 4 more road games than home games. The Astros have played an astounding 11 more road games than home games coming into today. Their schedule will get somewhat easier if only b/c they’ll be playing many more home games over the last 100 games.

Looking at the Cards, though, you’d expect our opponent winning % to be slightly higher than the Cubs, by virtue of the fact that they’ve played us and we’ve played them. The fact that ours is slightly lower leads me to believe that our schedule will be a little more difficult than theirs from here on out. More worrisome, however, is the disparity between our strength of schedule so far and the Brewers and Reds – 2 teams I expect to challenge us down the stretch. There’s a pretty wide gap. Both teams have already played the Dbacks, the Phillies, the Braves, the Marlins, the Mets, and more games against the Cubs than we have. Now, they’re not finished with all of those teams but we’ve played, combined, 3 games against the teams I’ve just listed while they’ve played more than 20. Our schedule’s going to get a lot tougher while theirs gets a lot easier.

Add to that the fact that we’ve played more home games than road (unlike either the Reds or Brewers) and now are experiencing some pretty severe starting pitcher travails and we’re going to have our work cut out for us just as we try and stay in the race for the Wild Card. The good news is that the Cubs’ schedule’s going to get considerably tougher as well.

That brings us full-circle – back to the starting pitcher questions. With Pineiro, Wellemeyer, and now Wainer out for the time being, the next month until the All-Star Game becomes a critical stretch.

In case any of you missed it, 2007 draftee Clayton Mortensen made his first start at Memphis last night. He pitched just OK and took the loss for the Redbirds after yielding 4 walks in 5.1 IP. He only gave up 2 ER in a 3-2 loss. Also, I guess it’s not a given that Reyes is recalled to take a start next week. Jaime Garcia has pitched better than Reyes at AAA – more IP, fewer H, fewer BB, more K’s so it’s possible they recall Garcia instead of Reyes. Like I said, it’s going to test their creativity.

I’ll get a game thread up in a couple of hours. Go Cards. We’re 3 for 3 in series against the Astros. Let’s make it 4 for 4.