Cardinals On (Relatively) Solid Ground Again
The Cardinals win over the Brewers, coupled with the Astros loss to the Braves puts the Cardinals back into a solid position to clinch a playoff spot that they should have clinched a week ago. The precarious situation in which they found themselves was their own doing and, if they do indeed make the playoffs, they’re going to be a shaken and exhausted veteran group. That notwithstanding, they have to deal with the situation in front of them at the moment; and in the moment, the Cardinals have everything set up relatively well for themselves in St. Louis and in Atlanta.
The Astros, having lost despite a good performance from Roger Clemens, now have to hope that they can win the next two games while the Cardinals lose at least one. If that happens, the Cardinals will have to fly all the way to San Francisco to play a make-up game with the Giants to determine if they have to play another game with the Astros in a one game playoff on Tuesday in Houston. At which point, both teams’ pitching staffs would be completely depleted and they would have to throw out whomever is available. The winner of that game would probably have to fly straight to the West Coast to open the NLDS with the Padres/Dodgers on Wednesday.
The Astros are already using a pitcher today named Chris Sampson who is such an unknown that his player stat card on ESPN.com doesn’t even contain a picture of him. There’s an empty silhouette with his name and pitching records underneath—-the unknown soldier. The picture on the MLB.com stat sheet portrays him in the middle of his motion as he’s about to release the ball; his face contorted in exertion. He’s a 6 foot 170 pound righty with 11 career big league games; 2 career starts; a 2-0 record and a 2.10 ERA. Suffice it to say he’ll be on a short leash today against the Braves. The Braves are starting Lance Cormier.
Tomorrow, the Braves are scheduled to pitch John Smoltz with Andy Pettitte going for the Astros. If I were Phil Garner and if Pettitte was healthy and willing, I might consider moving Pettitte up to pitch today against Cormier and worry about tomorrow tomorrow with Oswalt, Clemens, et, al. ready to go if needed. Knowing that they have to win all the games anyway, the Astros have an argument for having Pettitte ready with full rest tomorrow if they win today, but moving him up is something to consider.
As for the Cardinals, they have their two best starters, Jeff Suppan and Chris Carpenter, going today and tomorrow. Ben Sheets has been pitching well for the Brewers lately is pitching today. It would behoove the Cardinals to try and get the win today any way possible knowing that the Astros are starting a rookie. The last thing the Cardinals (or the Astros) need at this point is a long drawn out series of flights to simply make the playoffs; but due to their inability to close out the Astros when they had the chance last week; and their losing streak; and the Astros refusing to lose, this is the mess they’ve made. The best thing that they can do for themselves is if they simply win both today and tomorrow so they don’t have to count on assistance from the Braves at all.