I believe, 100 percent, that the St. Louis Cardinals are fully capable of beating the Chicago Cubs.
The Redbirds have deeper pitching including a better bullpen, tons more post-season experience and the home field advantage, to name a few reasons to be optimistic about their chances.
But if St. Louis is going to beat Chicago, they need to come ready for a bar fight. Because that’s what the Cubs like to bring to the field.
The Cubs, in short, are bullies. Their hitters crowd the plate and dare opposing pitchers to do something about it. Meanwhile, their pitchers menace opposing batters with inside pitches like they don’t have to answer to anybody.
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This is something that has gone on for the whole season. But it was on national display Wednesday when Chicago hurler Jake Arrieta plunked TWO Pirates batters (keeping them off the plate with inside pitches and then painting the outside corner to rack up strikeouts by the bushel) and then instigating a bench-clearing scrum when Pittsburgh retaliated by hitting Arieta with an inside attention getter in a too little, too late effor to stand up for itself.
The biggest Cubs offender is Anthony Rizzo who stood on top of the plate all season to ring up 30 occasions of being hit by a pitch. That’s twice as many times as the nearest Cardinals batter, Kolten Wong, who was hit 15 times.
I’m not accusing the Cubs of doing something dirty. This is old school baseball. The sort of thing Bob Gibson had to deal with when Chicago skipper Joe Maddon was tuning in Redbirds games on KMOX as a kid. All I am saying is that if the Cubs are going to take liberties, the Cardinals better be up to the task of stopping them from doing so.
I’d rather see Bryant at first base rubbing a bruise after every plate appearance than circling the bases in a trot because the Cardinals gave in and put one in his wheelhouse. St. Louis doesn’t have to head hunt or resort to dirty tricks. But if I was pitcher John Lackey I’d go to the umpire in the first inning and tell him “I’m not trying to hit these guys. If they’re leaning into the strike zone, they’re hitting themselves. I want you to be aware of that.”
In the above photo, Rizzo stands over the inside of the plate, often with his back foot on the chalk line that defines the inside of the batter’s box. The catcher is clearly set up for an inside pitch, but the offering is over the plate -- and it got creamed for an RBI hit.
It’s important that the Cardinals make a statement in Game 1 of the NLDS. Not only to stem Chicago’s momentum, but to make sure they maintain home field advantage.
If the Cardinals stand their ground and execute as they’re capable, they stand a good chance to make another appearance in the National League Championship Series. If they let the Cubs dictate the terms, they’re going to go home uncustomarily early.