The St. Louis Cardinals need to keep the heat on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs when they'll face the Wee Bears' best young pitcher.
Kyle Hendricks is 0-1 in two starts against the Redbirds so far this season. But that doesn't mean St. Louis has dominated him. He's 0-1 with a 2.19 ERA this season against the Cardinals, losing 1-0 to St. Louis in his first appearance. The Cardinals lost the second game in which they faced Hendricks by a 7-2 score. But the damage was done after St. Louis starter Shelby Miller -- who also starts Tuesday against Hendricks -- had departed. That was the game where Pat Neshek came in to relieve and gave up four runs in 2/3 of an inning.
Averaging 1.5 runs scored in Hendricks' starts doesn't bode well for the Cardinals. But the four-run outing against Neshek was such an unusual occurrence that it nearly doubled the relievers ERA from 0.81 to 1.45.
Since the Pittsburgh Pirates can't seem to oblige the Cardinals by losing a few games here and there, the Redbirds can't afford to take a night off. They need to find away to come through it what could be their toughest remaining game of the season to keep the Bucs 2 1/2 games back.
We're getting down to the point where the pressure is extremely high on the Cardinals. Pittsburgh is playing teams that couldn't care less if they win or if they lose while St. Louis has been playing bitter rivals that would like nothing better than to mess up the Birds' October party.
I'd hate to see this come down to a three-game drag race to end the season and the Birds have it in their control to make that happen. If the Cardinals can sweep the Cubs and the hitless yet pitching rich Atlanta Braves could find a way to win at least one game against the Pirates, St. Louis would be up three games with three to play.
And then I could finally relax a little bit.