The Cardinals head for the post season with not only the worst record of all the eight playoff teams over their last 10 games. Their 2-8 mark ties the Kansas City Royals for the worst record in baseball over the last week and a half.
That being said, there is lots to be positive about as they try to bring their 11th World Series Championship to St. Louis.
The Cardinals have the strongest top three starters in the National League. And, although they have been forced to start the post season on the road thanks to their stumbling finish, their rotation is the great equalizer. Chris Carpenter, the 2005 winner of the Cy Young Award and a strong candidate for the honor this season will start game one for St. Louis against the Dodgers' journeyman starter, Randy Wolf.
Wolf is 11-7 with a respectable 3.23 ERA. Carpenter is 17-4 with a 2.24 ERA. That's a huge difference. And if the Cardinals can capitalize on it, they should come home absolutely no worse than in a 1-1 tie with a chance to take control of the series in games 3 and 4 in St. Louis. And the second game in Los Angeles looks good for the Birds, too. Let's not write it off.
Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63) faces second year pitcher Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.79) in the second tilt.
The first thing a critic is going to say is that Wolf and Kershaw are lefties and that southpaws have been poison to the Cardinals. But that's no excuse anymore. I don't care if they're ambidexterous or if they can throw the ball with their toes. The Cardinals have a veteran offensive corps of hitters that includes Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina. All three of them have played in the post season and the World Series.
Troy Glaus has had a lost regular season. But he, too, is battle tested. He won the big trophy with the Angels in his younger days and could easily come from out of nowhere to be an offensive force in the playoffs.
The Dodgers' offense revolves around Manny Ramirez, who hit .290 with 19 homers and 63 RBIs after his return from a suspension for using performance enhancers. Only Matt Kemp, .297-26-101, came close to hitting .300 amongst Dodgers starters. The Cardinals counter with Pujols, who is expected to win the NL MVP award with a .327-47-135 line. Holliday hit .313-24-109 overall and had a .353 batting average for the Cardinals.
The Redbirds' bullpen is the team's Achillies heal. But with starters who are capable of going deep into games, they ought to be able to minimize the exposure of the weaker pen men. And starters Kyle Lohse and John Smoltz could lend a hand to improve things considerably.
While the Cardinals came into the post season cold, they aren't any colder than they were in 2006 when they won the big prize. And, on paper, it would be a bitter disappointment if they can't get past the Dodgers in the first round.
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