The Flickering Flame of Hope

The problem with the title of this post is that is all the hope that is out there, a flicker.  Right now, we should be having a raging bonfire of hope or not have to worry about it at all, seeing the Cardinals celebrate last night.  Unfortunately, that’s not how this Series has gone and, unless some things change in Boston, that’s not how it is going to go, either.

When we talked about the edge the Cardinals had in this Series, it always came back to pitching.  The Cards had very good pitchers doing very good things and, for the most part, they’ve done that throughout these five games.  Game 1 was a mess and the last two nights have seen a key mistake late, but on the whole the pitching has held up its end of the bargain.

The problem is, you do have to score to win games and the offense has been as reliable as a teenager in front of a screen about doing their chores.  For the entire playoffs, all 16 games, St. Louis has hit .213 and has an OPS of .599.  That includes Game 1 of the Pirates series, when they scored 9 and Game 6 of the Dodgers series when they scored 9.  Barring those two games, the Cards have scored 37 runs, which over the other 14 games works out to 2.6 runs a game, a number slightly skewed by the three runs the Cards scored late in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Mike Matheny juggled the lineup to try to get something going last night, but to no avail.  Matt Holliday hit his–and the team’s–second home run of the Series, but that was it.  St. Louis has won some 1-0 games before, but it’s not a likely outcome, especially against the Red Sox offense.  Some of that credit has to go to Boston pitchers, but whatever the case, there need to be runs put on the board.  Letting teams hang around gets you burned at the end of games, as we’ve seen recently.

It really isn’t going to win you games when you are down 1-0 early.  It seems to me that, unless something drastically changes in the next couple of games, David Ortiz will wind up with the Series MVP even if the Cards win the next two games.  St. Louis hasn’t found a way to get him out–he was three for four last night, meaning that one lone out was headline news.  When a guy’s hitting .733 for a five game set, he’s not hot, he’s wielding a bat made of fire like that monk in A Song of Ice and Fire.  Somebody has got to figure out a new plan against him.

Credit Adam Wainwright for a solid performance last night.  After giving up back-to-back doubles in the first, Waino dominated, striking out 10.  Unfortunately, he ran out of gas in the seventh and that was the difference in the game.  A night after Matheny had arguably a quick hook with Lance Lynn, he let his ace try to work out of the jam even though he was at the 100 pitch mark.  Seems whatever Matheny does in that regard is backfiring on him right now.

When you are down 3-2 and you are going back to a hostile environment like Boston, there are a number of reasons to be depressed.  Let me tell you, folks, I’m right there with you.  It’s a very tough road to hoe here.  For the off-day, though, let’s see if we can’t have a few positive thoughts.

1) As bad as the Cardinal offense has been, it’s statistically a draw with Boston’s.  For the Series, the Cards have an OPS of .577, which is not good.  The Red Sox? .585.  That’s with Ortiz having a line of .733/.750/1.267.  The Red Sox have 33 hits–11 of them have come from their DH/1B.  If the Cards are actually able to start getting him out, it’s possible that they could actually win a 1-0 game.

2) The Cards have done this before.  Not win two games on hostile territory, but win two games with the season on the line.  We all remember 2011, which granted needed home field to happen, but you also have earlier this postseason, when they were down 2-1 to Pittsburgh and needing a win to stay alive.  One of those was in PNC Park, one at home in Busch.  It’s not quite the same–Boston is obviously a better team than Pittsburgh was and there’s no Neftali Feliz or Nelson Cruz in this series–but it’s an achievable feat.

3) St. Louis won both Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly‘s starts this World Series.  They had to rally for Wacha and it took some late inning craziness for Kelly, but they did win with both of those pitchers.  If Wacha can do what he did (and the offense can figure out John Lackey a little bit), you push it to a Game 7 where all bets are off.  Boston would start Jake Peavy, whom the Cards were able to get to in Game 3 (but unable to really finish off), and even though they’d be yanking him at the first sign of trouble, that might be enough.

Look, the odds are that we’re going to have to watch Boston celebrate on their turf either Wednesday or Thursday night.  There’s no doubt that they would deserve it if that happens.  However, a wise man once said, “Never tell me the odds.”  This is a tough team, a team that can pull this out.  We’ll have to wait and see if they do and, as always, the waiting is the hardest part.

  • Ben Chambers

    I’d like to see Matheny maybe try and juggle the lineup again. Maybe it would work. Maybe not. I would be ok with him going back to the normal lineup, but one that I think might have some success would be:
    Carpenter
    Molina
    Holliday
    Beltran
    Craig
    Adams
    Jay
    Freese
    Kozma/Descalso

    That’s assuming Jay starts and Matheny doesn’t try to put Wong or someone else in, but either way, the top 6 would be the same, and that’s what I’m really looking at. Maybe switch Craig/Adams, but I think that would be a good lineup with how everyone’s hitting right now.

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