It's been something of the Cardinals calling card to paint themselves into a corner then find some way to triumph over nearly certain death.
But if they want to turn 10 1/2 games back with 32 days left to play in the 2011 season into the franchise's 18th World Series appearance, the Redbirds really need to do themselves a favor and deal the Brewers a knockout punch today.
Milwaukee is forced this evening to start Shaun Marcum, a pitcher who is on fumes. A 13-7 pitcher with a 3.54 ERA over the regular season, Marcum has made five starts over the courst of the last 28 days and in them he has a 5.17 ERA. In two starts in this post season he has managed to last only a total of 8 2/3 innings during which he gave up 12 earned runs on 14 hits. That includes five earned runs on seven hits in his Previous NLCS start against the Redbirds that lasted four innings.
To put it simply, the Cardinals need to get out front of Marcum early and force the Brewers into their middle relievers. They can't let Milwaukee hang around until they get to their two-headed closer, Francisco Rodriguez and Jon Axford. Brewers fans who author one blog I've read about the situation are so concerned about Marcum that they believe the Brewers should pull him as early as the fourth inning -- unless he is pitching a no hitter -- and count on Axford and Rodriguez to pitch a combined four or five innings.
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The Birds have the momentum, the pitching advantage and the upper hand that is a three games to two lead in a best of seven series. They need to not give that away and let the Brewers come back with their ace against Chris Carpenter is game seven.
Not only would Milwaukee then have the momentum and the home crowd behind them to face Yovani Gallardo and his 10-2 record with a 3.00 ERA at Miller Park.
The Cardinals shouldn't count on another overwhelming pitching performance from Chris Carpenter in a deciding game. There are only so many times that one can go to that well. They would be much better off if they could give their ace a couple more days of rest and set him up to pitch in the first game of the World Series.