If you ever wondered what it would be like to face the Small Bears in the playoffs, you’ll get a taste of it this week.
I think I can speak for everyone when I say I hoped the Cardinals would bury Pittsburgh for the rest of the regular season, when they played this weekend. Alas, it was not to be. I’d rather be 5 1/2 up than 5 1/2 back with 26 to play, but I’d MUCH rather the Pirates were staring up from a 9 1/2 game hole. St Louis is still in good shape, but has lots of work to do.
Chicago can inject some more not-needed drama into September, especially if they take this series. Old friend Dan Haren faces Lance Lynn today. Haren hasn’t pitched particularly well since joining the Cubs (5.87 ERA, 6.03 FIP, 4.63 xFIP) but has historically pitched pretty well at Neo-Busch (3 games, .265/.307/.361 slash line allowed). Jason Hammel faces Michael Wacha Tuesday. Hammel’s ERA/FIP/xFIP are almost identical (3.55/3.65/3.46) and he’s been hot/cold all year. Currently he’s cold, having allowed at least 3 runs in three of his last four starts. He’s gotten a no-decision in his two starts vs STL this year, and the Cubs lost both games.
Playoff nemesis Jon Lester gets Wednesday’s game opposite Carlos Martinez. Lester has pitched better than his 9-10 record would indicate (3.59/3.07/3.15), and the Cardinals have beaten him twice in three starts this year. Curiously his lone win came in St Louis.
The biggest concern going into this series has to remain the Cardinals’ offense. Chicago appears to be firing on all cylinders at the plate, led by Anthony Rizzo and presumptive NL ROY Kris Byrant. Manager Mike Matheny did a good job stacking his two best pitchers for this series, because it will take guys with their kind of stuff to slow down the Cubs attack. On our side of the ball, here’s wishing Matt Holiday was ready to go. One wonders if Randal Grichuk will swing a bat in this series or if Steven Piscotty can keep his torrid hitting going.
Like the just-concluded series, it would be most appreciated if the Cardinals could win this series and formally assign Chicago to the Wild Card Game. Let them slug it out with Pittsburgh to host that game knowing they can’t win the Division.
Mike’s been blogging about the Cardinals since 2006. He still monitors Twitter occasionally @metzgermg