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make 'em sweat

anything less than a sweep of the two games vs milwaukee this week will leave the cardinals in hail-mary territory. it’s not just the 3.5-game gap in the standings; it’s the schedule, which (as houstoncardinal and brian gunn both have pointed out) skews heavily in the brewers’ favor. even if they sweep, the cards will need the brewers to cool down during september. since june 1 milwaukee has a 48-27 record, the best mark in baseball. st louis is 40-35 over the same span, which ain’t bad considering they’ve played most of that stretch without their best pitcher; lost their best hitter for 2 weeks; and blew a number of late leads. they are making the brewers sweat for it. i’m as disappointed as you that they couldn’t muster better than a 3-2 mark vs the pirates and braves leading into the showdown w/ milwaukee; the two losses were both games that a playoff team wins. the cardinals may not be a playoff team. they still have my admiration.

one other since-june-1 factoid, by the way, before we leave that trope behind: since that date, the cardinals have scored the most runs (388) of any national league team. (the brewers are second at 382, cubs third at 381.) for the season as a whole, the cards now rank second in the league not only in runs scored (which position they occupied about a week ago) but also in average runs per game, 4.90. at their current pace they’ll finish with 794 runs, or 69 more than last year.

wainwright starts on wednesday, and they’re saying carpenter may be back out there by september 7 or so. HC mentioned the possibility that those two could constitute half of a 4-man rotation down the stretch, with the cards’ numerous open dates being used to keep them on regular rest. i see the merits of that idea and have toyed with it myself, but on further reflection i’ve decided i don’t like it. two reasons: first, with both guys coming off injuries, i think the team might be just as well served to use those open dates to give them both an extra day of rest --- especially carpenter. second --- and this is the big one for me --- winnowing down to a 4-man rotation would require the cards to dump either lohse or looper from the rotation, and i don’t think that would be right. those two guys propped up the rotation all summer, while wainwright and carp were absent and wellemeyer and pineiro were laboring. without them, this team wouldn’t have even a flicker of hope. they’re both pitching reasonably well --- well, no, looper’s pitching great, and lohse is hanging in there --- but in any case, they’ve both earned the right to pitch in important september games, win or lose (there’s that phrase again . . . ). if we pencil in carpenter to return on september 9 vs the cubs and assume a five-man rotation the rest of the way (skipping pineiro’s turn in the current cycle thanks to the off dates), they’d only need to use pineiro one time in the last 30 games; all the rest of their starts will be taken by above-average pitchers. i’ll take my chances w/ that.

odds and ends:

  • pujols-for-mvp watch: he now leads the league in batting (tied), obp, and slugging; he’s first in mlb in VORP, second in win shares, and 3d in WPA.
  • if / when ryan ludwick passes the 100-rbi threshold, he’ll be the first cardinal other than pujols to do so since 2004. he’s already the first card (non-pujols) since that date to hit 30 homers.
  • anthony reyes made another strong start last night, 7 inn 1 run against texas, the highest-scoring team in baseball. he now sports a 2.22 era in 4 starts for cleveland. i’d be slightly, um, annoyed if we find out the kid can really pitch and we gave him away for nothing . . . .
  • brian barton’s injury is a tough break for him, and for the cards --- they could have used him on wednesday night vs left-handed starter manny parra, who eats lh batters alive but is somewhat vulnerable vs right-handers (.283 avg). assuming barton hits the dl, the leading candidate to take his roster spot is probably stavinoha. i’d kinda like to see them give a shot either to david freese (who hit his 25th homer last night) or josh phelps. neither one is on the 40-man, but the cards have some players they can safely remove (rico washington, anyone?) to create a spot for one of them.
  • brett wallace hit two homers for springfield last night, including a walkoff. he is 9 for his first 20 vs double A pitching with 2 doubles, 3 homers, and one strikeout. daryl jones homered too, and is now batting .333 vs double A pitching (in 96 ab) with a 1.050 ops. springfield is striving for a playoff slot, tied for first place w/ 7 games to go.
  • josh kinney pitched an inning in that springfield game, by the way, his first appearance in a professional baseball match since this one. he threw a perfect inning, struck out one guy; don’t know anything about his velocity, etc. the cardinals can always use another decent relief pitcher . . . .
  • tom tango has begun his annual scouting report by the fans, a great wisdom-of-crowds exercise. participation is encouraged.