It’s October. Here We Go Again.

Hello playoffs, my old friend
We’ve come to play here once again
Because a vision softly creeping
Of rings and joyous weeping
Was a vision that was planted in our brain
And still remains
Within the month of playoffs

This restless year we’ve only grown
Stronger from the angst we’ve sown
From the days of spring training camp
Through many days when the offense was damp
Now we hear the cheers of the fans dressed in red and white
They go all night
Within the month of playoffs

And in the bright harsh lights we saw
Ten thousand people times four
People yelling and not hating
Unless the others they were baiting
People writing songs that voices shouldn’t share
There’s always there
Within the month of playoffs

“Fools,” said I, “you do not know
Playoffs like a cancer grows
Stress that makes it so you can’t eat
Always worried that you’ll be beat.”
But my words were ignored even by me
It was the month of playoffs

And the people stayed up late
To find out the Cardinals’ fate
And the sign flashed out its warning
Clayton Kershaw is now warming”
And the players said that big goofy Dodger is heading for another fall
Let’s play some ball
Within the month of playoffs

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  That time when every pitch means about 100 times more than a pitch in the regular season.  Where your chance at a World Series could be determined by a seventh-inning at-bat in Game One of the NLDS.  Everything is magnified.  Everything is agonizing.  I mean, just look at the Royals, already having played two extra-inning games.  I’m fairly sure heart doctors make their money in October and take the rest of the winter off.

As you know, the Cards released their NLDS roster yesterday.  Given that I posted my picks earlier in the week, you know where I disagree with them.  I could live with Michael Wacha in the pen, though I’m still not sure what we can expect from him, but I really am afraid the Cardinals are going to regret either not taking another bat or taking the ones that they did.

I mean, look, for the most part the bench is Tony Cruz, who likely won’t get used, Pete Kozma and Daniel Descalso, with the other outfielders there to make it not look like the munchkins from Oz in both stature and production.  I know that Kolten Wong will probably be on the bench tonight with the lefty starting, which helps that but weakens the starting lineup.  It’s not an offensive juggernaut by any means.

The Cards are going to have to win a lot of 2-1 games this October, it looks like.  Thankfully the pitching staff is up to the task, even if we are going to buy Maalox by the case with Trevor Rosenthal being entrusted with a lot of those leads.  There’s no doubt the Redbirds can win this series, of course, but it’s not going to be anything close to easy or relaxing.

As Bernie Miklasz points out, this is the worst offensive team in the 19 years that Bill DeWitt has owned the team.  That they got to 90 wins is either 1) a testament to Mike Matheny‘s leadership or 2) a cosmic fluke that we are going to be paying for in the years to come.  (Hey, I remember what happened after 2006.  It could well happen.)  We have seen teams play different baseball in October than their profiles from the season would indicate–we all remember how the lack of hitting with runners in scoring position reared its head against the Red Sox last year–but that’s not necessarily what you want to count on.  Do these hitters have the ability to put together runs?  Sure.  Will they?  Seems like a tall order.

Even more so when you think of the starting pitching they are going to face.  Kershaw and company aren’t perfect, truly, but they will make it difficult for a team that has struggled all year long offensively to suddenly come out of its shell and start clicking on all cylinders.

We have to hope that this is a series of pitching, because the Cardinals can compete in that arena.  If the Dodger bats start coming to life–and that lineup definitely has that potential and much more proof that they can live up to their potential than St. Louis–this could be a repeat of 2009.  Actually worse–Cards had a shot in 2009.

Do you remember after the All-Star Break when the Cardinals and Dodgers met up and everyone wanted Matheny to throw Adam Wainwright against Kershaw?  It didn’t happen then, but that dream matchup comes around tonight.  Let’s look at how each pitcher has done against the opposing team.

First off, Waino.  While much will likely be made of Kershaw wanting to get a little revenge for his debacle last year in the NLCS, Wainwright’s still got that undeserved loss in 2009 in mind.  Not only that, while he pitched well last year in the NLCS against LA, he still was tagged with a loss.  There’s no doubt Wainwright will be quite motivated in this matchup for many reasons.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Andre Ethier 42 39 10 3 0 3 7 3 8 .256 .310 .564 .874 0 0 0 0 0
Darwin Barney 31 31 8 2 0 1 5 0 5 .258 .258 .419 .677 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Kemp 30 27 3 1 0 0 0 2 6 .111 .200 .148 .348 0 0 0 1 0
Hanley Ramirez 30 27 6 0 0 0 2 3 5 .222 .300 .222 .522 0 0 0 0 2
Adrian Gonzalez 25 23 5 2 0 0 3 2 6 .217 .280 .304 .584 0 0 0 0 1
Juan Uribe 17 17 4 0 0 0 0 0 5 .235 .235 .235 .471 0 0 0 0 4
Carl Crawford 10 10 2 0 0 0 2 0 2 .200 .200 .200 .400 0 0 0 0 0
Yasiel Puig 10 10 3 1 1 0 1 0 5 .300 .300 .600 .900 0 0 0 0 1
A.J. Ellis 8 8 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 .125 .125 .375 .500 0 0 0 0 0
Clayton Kershaw 8 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Roger Bernadina 5 5 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Kevin Correia 5 5 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Zack Greinke 5 4 1 0 0 0 1 0 2 .250 .250 .250 .500 1 0 0 0 0
Justin Turner 5 5 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 .400 .400 .600 1.000 0 0 0 0 0
Dee Gordon 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .333 .500 .333 .833 0 0 0 0 0
Drew Butera 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 1 0 0 0 0
Dan Haren 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .000 .333 .000 .333 0 0 0 0 0
Miguel Rojas 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 .667 .667 .667 1.333 0 0 0 0 0
Hyun-jin Ryu 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 246 230 52 11 2 4 23 12 52 .226 .267 .343 .611 3 0 0 1 8
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2014.

Wainwright’s done well against the Dodgers in his career.  He’s not faced Dee Gordon much, though, and Gordon’s a guy I worry about in this series.  I have no doubt he’ll be testing Yadier Molina often and while we saw Yadi throw a few runners out since he returned from his thumb injury, he’s going to have to be 100% to be nabbing Gordon.  That is, of course, unless the pitchers can keep him off the basepaths, which is a much better thought.

Wainwright only faced the Dodgers once this year, back on June 26.  He allowed a run in the eighth, which was enough to lose the ballgame as the Cards only mustered four hits off of Josh Beckett, who won’t be in this series as he is out with an injury.  Waino may have to be even better this afternoon to avoid the same fate.

We all know that Kershaw is an unworldly pitcher right now and we cling to that small hope that, since St. Louis has been able to solve him before, they can do it again.  Which is possible, but it’s a thin reed.  We tend to focus on Game 6 of last year’s championship series, when he allowed seven runs in four innings.  We forget that earlier in that series, he gave up two hits and one unearned run in six innings.  He wound up taking a loss there and if the Redbirds are to knock him off in this series, it might well need to be a similar type of game.

Name PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP
Matt Holliday 54 43 10 1 0 1 2 10 13 .233 .389 .326 .714 0 0 1 1 1
Yadier Molina 33 30 9 3 0 0 2 3 4 .300 .364 .400 .764 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Carpenter 25 24 7 2 1 0 1 1 5 .292 .320 .458 .778 0 0 0 0 1
Peter Bourjos 12 11 4 0 0 1 2 0 5 .364 .417 .636 1.053 0 0 0 1 0
Jon Jay 11 9 1 1 0 0 1 1 5 .111 .182 .222 .404 0 1 0 0 0
Jhonny Peralta 11 10 2 0 0 0 0 1 4 .200 .273 .200 .473 0 0 0 0 1
Adam Wainwright 10 6 2 1 0 0 2 2 1 .333 .500 .500 1.000 2 0 0 0 0
Mark Ellis 9 8 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 .250 .250 .375 .625 1 0 0 0 0
Pete Kozma 9 8 4 3 0 0 3 1 1 .500 .556 .875 1.431 0 0 1 0 0
Matt Adams 8 7 2 1 0 0 1 1 2 .286 .375 .429 .804 0 0 0 0 0
Tony Cruz 6 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .200 .200 .200 .400 1 0 0 0 2
Daniel Descalso 6 4 2 0 0 0 0 2 0 .500 .667 .500 1.167 0 0 1 0 0
Shelby Miller 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 1
Michael Wacha 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
A.J. Pierzynski 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Carlos Martinez 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Oscar Taveras 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0 0
Total 207 178 46 13 1 2 15 22 49 .258 .345 .376 .721 4 1 3 2 7
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/3/2014.

That table definitely doesn’t look like the table you’d necessarily expect against the best pitcher in the game today, but we’ll take it.  While you can’t expect these small samples to hold up, there seems little doubt Kozma will be starting at second base today and 95% chance Dirty Dan starts at first.

Kershaw faced the Cards on June 29 and threw seven scoreless innings, striking out 13.  The “St. Louis can hit Kershaw” meme took its own hit that day.  Kershaw was a bit more mortal when they saw him again on July 20.  He allowed three runs in seven innings, striking out eight, and left with the game tied before Rosenthal allowed the winning run in the ninth.

Tonight’s game is on FOX Sports 1.  It’ll be nerve-wracking, excruciating and hopefully, eventually, exhilarating.  There’s a reason we don’t have playoff baseball for more than a month.  Human beings aren’t designed for this!

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