You know, I had a whole post planned out for this morning. It was all about why I, personally, am a 'if only' guy, as opposed to what Houston wrote a little over a week ago. As is my usual MO, I was going to tell you all a story from my personal life, and then completely destroy any meaning it may have possibly had be equating it directly to a baseball game with absolutely no qualifiers. Then, of course, along comes Cesar Izturis and his- ahem- walk off heroics, and I have to try and come up with something totally different.
I know, I know, you're all so very disappointed. I can hear the cries from all throughout VEB land, "But what about your story, Aaron? At least tell us, was it going to be wistful and tinged with bitterness?" You bet your sweet ass it was!
However, the Cardinals now find themselves only three and a half games back of the Brewers for the wild card lead this morning, so the bittersweet recollections will just have to wait for another morning.
On Monday morning, I postulated that the Cardinals would probably need to go about 14-5 over their last nineteen games if they wanted to have a legitimate shot at catching Milwaukee and making the playoffs. I operated under the assumption that the Brewers would likely play no worse than one game under .500 over the final stretch. However, I must say that after watching Milwaukee play lately, I could easily see them playing much worse than that. They may be a year older than the team that collapsed so utterly in September of '07, but that is still an operation that seems to be floundering along, desperately searching for an identity.
There were two major turning points in the game last night, and it isn't real hard to figure out what they were. The first was the Albert home run in the bottom of the sixth. Up until that point, Dempster had pretty much had his way with the Cardinal hitters. In that one swing, Pujols turned the game around and gave the Cards a fresh slate. The other, of course, was the double play that Perez induced in the top of the ninth inning. Just before that, Ron Villone had come in and walked the only batter he was to face, the lefty hitting Fukudome. You could hear the groan go up from Cardinal fans all throughout the land. It was happening again. Just another in a long line of late inning letdowns for the 2008 Cards. One pitch later, everything was going to be just fine.
If the Birds really are going to make a run at it down the stretch, the bullpen is probably going to be the key. The starting pitching pretty much is what it is, and the offense has been about as good as you could possibly hope for most of the year. That 30+ blown saves is the number that is standing betweeen the Cards and the postseason right now.
To that end, I really like that we haven't seen Kyle McClellan in a while. K-Mac hasn't appeared in a game since his disastrous appearance on the 3rd of September against Arizona. That was the game he gave up two earned runs on two walks and a double in only two thirds of an inning. I have to give Tony credit on this one. McClellan has thrown an awful lot of innings this season, particularly for a guy who's still not that far removed from elbow surgery, and setting him down for a week makes a lot of sense to me. I think that K-Mac will still be able to contribute down the stretch for this team, and a lot of what he may be able to offer will be thanks to the rest he's getting now.
Only time will tell if that double play was really that important or not. It could end up being like the three run shot that Albert hit off of Cla Meredith late in 2006; the Cardinals won the game from the Padres that night, holding off a charging Astros team for yet another night. Or, of course, it could also end up more like that other three run shot Albert hit, the one in October of '05. That one, dramatic as it may have been, only delayed the inevitable for a single night. I guess for now we'll all just have to hope for 2006.
Bits and pieces:
Jaime Garcia was supposed to have had his Tommy John surgery yesterday, I believe, but I haven't heard anything about it yet. If anyone out there has a heads up, it would be greatly appreciated.
Speaking of injuries, I also haven't heard anything else coming out of Chicago regarding the condition of Rich Harden. As they used to say on Laugh In, verrrrrry interesting.
Batavia, the Cardinals' short season affiliate in the New York Penn league, is currently tied at one game apiece with Lowell, the Boston affiliate. I have no idea what the Lowell mascot is, but I sincerely doubt it can be any tougher than something called a Muckdog. Advantage: Batavia.
See you guys later for game 2 of the Cards' playoffs to reach the playoffs. Take care of yourselves.