Cause For Concern?

St Louis rode timely hitting and a hot bullpen to a 2-1 series lead. However, including Kyle Lohse’s start on Thursday, a possible chink has appeared in the Cardinal armor. Their starting pitchers are not getting deep into games anymore. This is the exact opposite of the Philadelphia series, where four of the five games saw Cardinal starters throw pitches in the sixth inning or later (the lone exception was Chris Carpenter’s short rest, 3 inning Game 2 start).

Does it matter? Not really. Here’s why.

Tony LaRussa changed his post-season roster to add an eighth pitcher. So armed, he has deployed his bullpen early and often, and matched up his pitchers against Milwaukee’s hitters. He’s also done a good job not overusing his bullpen, as evidenced in the below list. Relievers are ordered based on when they first appeared in the series; ‘bf’ is short for ‘batters faced’; ‘g’ is short for ‘game’.

  • Octavio Dotel: 6 bf (g1), 4 bf (g4)
  • Lance Lynn: 4 bf (g1), 1 bf (g2), 4 bf (g3)
  • Kyle McClellan: 3 bf (g1)
  • Marc Rzepczynski: 2 bf g1), 4 bf (g2), 1 bf (g3)
  • Mitchell Boggs 4 bf (g1), 4 bf (g2), 5 bf (g4)
  • Arthur Rhodes 1 bf (g2), 3 bf (g4)
  • Fernando Salas 3 bf (g2), 3 bf (g3), 7 bf (g4)
  • Jason Motte 3 bf (g2), 4 bf (g3)

LaRussa has spread the workload around. Only Lynn and Salas have appeared in three consecutive games. Even those streaks were broken by the off-day between Games 2 and 3. His middle relievers have seen a lot of action – Boggs and Salas have faced 13 hitters each in this series – but the back of the bullpen has been judiciously used, especially the two lefties and Motte.

Randy Wolf shut down the Cardinals Thursday night, as he has all season, and ensured the NLCS will return to Milwaukee. If St Louis is able to again hit like they did in the first 19 innings of this series it won’t matter how deep their starters get. If, however, the remaining game action settles into a pitching duel the Cardinals starting rotation’s inability to get into the sixth inning may come back to haunt them. The Cardinal starters are better than their middle relievers, and to win this series they will need their best pitchers on the mound pitching well.

Mike Metzger is a life-long Cardinals fan watching the NLCS with bated breath. He is the author of Padres Trail, a San Diego Padres blog. Follow him on twitter @metzgermg.

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