Suds & Duds: Here’s To The High Life, Buds

Game. Five. (see what I did there?)

Last week, I wrote about how saying, reading or hearing the words, “Game five” doesn’t quite carry the same weight at “Game seven”. Last Friday, “Game 5” meant the final and elimination game in the series between the Cardinals and Phillies: Carpenter vs. Halladay, season on the line, loser goes fishing…etc, etc. This week, it’s a different story-more about the momentum than anything.

Tonight, Zack Greinke and Jamie Garcia square off at Busch Stadium to determine which team will take a 3-2 series lead into Miller Park on Sunday. In game 1, Greinke continued his streak of not losing a game at home, despite giving up 6 earned runs, and posting an ERA of 9.00 on Saturday. A 16-6 record during the regular season, all six of Greinke’s losses came on the road in 2011, the most recent one being on September 7th in, where else but in St. Louis. That night, Zack Greinke and Chris Carpenter went head-to-head for the third time of the season, and Carp finally got the win. Hard telling who, if anyone, could’ve beaten him that night, as the Cardinals’ right-handed workhorse went 9 innings, threw 97 pitches, scattering a meager 4 hits.

But that’s ancient history now.

Metaphoric future photography at work: Jason Motte at Miller Park this coming Sunday
Garcia must bring his “A game” tonight, and must keep his mind about him. I cannot overstate this. Jamie generally pitches well in home games, and the Cardinals are going to need that tonight. The Brewers own the best home record in all of baseball, and the redbirds will have their work cut out for them as they head north following tonight’s game, even if the trip is a “happy flight”. (The redbirds are on a ridiculous streak of winning on getaway day. The last time they lost on getaway day? August 3rd.) I’d say even taking a 3-2 series lead into Miller Park for the Cards is akin to a firefighter walking into a burning house. Sure, there’s some protection and certain safety measures in place. But in a burning house, anything can happen–the safest bet is to get in, do your job, and get out as quickly as possible.
That said, the Cardinals are more than capable of winning in Milwaukee, and I’m no more or less scared of elimination by playing a game or two in Miller Park than I’ve been scared of elimination at any point over the last two months. The good news is that it seems the Cardinals have become quite comfortable playing with their collective backs against the wall.
So, headed into tonight’s action, here are a few things I think could be big:
  • Garcia HAS to give the Cardinals some innings tonight

St. Louis starters have not gone deep into games this series, and even with an extra arm out in the bullpen, I’d rather not see every guy every night, if at all possible. Six innings is the absolute bare minimum for Garcia tonight, between seven and eight is ideal, pitch counts be damned. The World Series starts on Wednesday, so Garcia won’t pitch for at least another week. I say let him throw ‘til his arm (or head) simply can’t take anymore.

  • Keep men off base in front of Braun & Fielder

The Cards’ staff has done a decent job of this so far in the series, and I think that’s a big key to continued success, and sustained life in this series.

  • A lineup shuffle may be in order

Tony LaRussa is well-known among Cardinals fans and others in baseball for several things, not the least of which is an unpredictable lineup card every night. A friend and I were texting Thursday night, and the topic of Molina’s spot in the lineup came up. He’s obviously a great candidate for double-plays, given his lack of speed. One could make the argument that everyone in the Cardinals lineup is a good candidate, though, citing 169 reasons as to why. I could understand the mentality of not wanting to bat him 8th, as “having the pitcher bunt Molina over” doesn’t even sound right, let alone make sense in a lot of situations. But, I think if we’ve seen nothing else during this series, an average of nearly eleven runs scored per game thus far in the NLCS tells us that these games will probably not come down to the need to play for one run. These two teams each have a very capable offense, and having Molina clogging up the bases could turn out to possibly stifle a rally in those middle innings, and end up being the difference in the game. How much bigger could the first inning of game 3 been, had Yadi not hit into that 4-6-3? Fortunately the 4 runs held up, and were enough.

Either way, tonight’s contest will be big for momentum, no matter which team comes out on top. As a side note: it feels kind of good that we’ve made it through this much of Friday without being bombarded with all the “this could be the last time we see Pujols at Busch wearing the birds on the bat” stuff that we’ll surely hear on the broadcasts tonight. One thing is for sure about the eventual National League Champions: we will all be able to point to 2011 the next time someone refers to our division as the “Comedy Central”.

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