Monday, October 11, 2004

NLCS!

I am pumped that the Cardinals are going to the NLCS for the 3rd time in 5 years! Even though I'm going to have to watch Games 1 and 2 from a hotel room in California, it's going to be great. And to completely buck the trend, I'm pulling for the Houston Astros to advance tonight.

Why, do you ask? For one simple reason - the Astros have painted themselves into a corner, and it's going to be tricky for them to get out of it. I realize that many people think the Astros can go to the World Series this season on the backs of Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt. In fact, of 17 ESPN experts making picks before the playoffs started, 7 picked the Astros to win the pennant. (8 picked the Cards, for what it's worth.) But then, Phil Garner decided to make things interesting.

As I wrote in yesterday's article, Roger Clemens went yesterday on 3 days' rest. Jayson Stark wrote an article on ESPN.com yesterday, which you can find here. In this article, he points out a few things that really should come as no surprise.

Over the last 6 years in the playoffs, there have been 40 starts on short rest. In those games, the teams with that starter are 11-29 in those games, with the starting pitchers having a 7-20 record and an ERA over 7.00. Average number of innings in each start is 5 innings. Considering that Clemens was still recovering from the flu and that the Astros bullpen is essentially a one trick pony, the outcome of yesterday's game really shouldn't shock anyone.

Here is where it really gets interesting. Since they lost yesterday, the Astros now have to go with Roy Oswalt on short rest today. He's only done that once before in his career, and in that start he went 6 innings and gave up 3 earned runs. And let's add something else to that. As I wrote last month, Oswalt isn't exactly healthy right now. But the Astros don't have much of a choice. It's either start Oswalt on 3 day's rest, or give Pete Munro a start. You know - the guy who was 4-7 with a 5.15 ERA during the regular season?

Somehow, some way the Astros need to win tonight. Why? Because, my friends, the Astros have spent many of their bullets just trying to get into the NLCS.

Game 1

Neither Clemens nor Oswalt will be availible to pitch Game 1. Brandon Backe could, but on 3 days' rest, which doesn't appear to be a great idea. The afore mentioned Munro in Game 1? I'll take it.

Game 2

Clemens could pitch Game 2, but would have to do so on 3 day's rest. After yesterday's start, Clemens is now 1-4 on 3 days' rest with 2 no-decisions (regardless of what I said in yesterday's article, which was apparently false.) Even though he'd have to do it in back to back starts, can the Astros afford not to start him in Game 2? Backe would be the other option, as he would have his regular amount of rest.

Game 3

Clemens would be fully rested by now (Saturday.) So would Oswalt. I suspect that Clemens would have pitched Game 2, allowing Oswalt to go here.

Game 4

Brandon Backe would most likely start here.

Game 5

This game is on Monday. Guess what? The Astros are forced to either start Clemens on 3 days' rest for the third straight game, or go back to Munro. Either option isn't a good one.

Game 6

This game would be on Wednesday, October 20th. Oswalt could only pitch this game on - you guessed it - 3 days' rest. Backe on even less. This start would have to be taken by either Munro or Clemens, whichever one didn't start in Game 5.

Game 7

Roy Oswalt could go on regular rest.

The above scenario is only one of many that could take place. But no matter how you break things up, Clemens and Oswalt will not be able to start more than 2 games each in the NLCS, with a minimum of 1 of those 4 starts being on 3 days' rest. That leaves 3 starts for Backe and Munro. And to thicken the plot even more, the only way to give Backe 2 starts on regular rest is to allow him to start Game 2 after Munro in Game 1...

So - all of you people wringing your hands and worried about the 1-2 punch of Clemens and Oswalt? I say - bring them on! Let's make it to the NLCS by knocking off the team that people say we are supposed to be afraid of. Not to mention - wouldn't it be fun to sweep the Astros to further the conspiracy theories of a certain other fan base North of St. Louis?

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