What a Difference
Funny how one's mood can be drastically different over a 12 hour (or less) period.
Yesterday, before the game, I was the fan of a 4-0 playoff team that hadn't trailed in a game. They were getting ready to face a starter they'd beaten up on this year, and countering with a guy that had given the Astros problems. I was wondering, at the time, if the Cardinals would win the NLCS in 5 games or 6!
Last night, by about the 8th inning, I was resolved to the Cardinals losing the game, potentially losing Sanders, and hoping they could find a way to win a game in Houston to send this series back to St. Louis. Talk about a roller coaster.
I don't have a bunch of stats or theories to pour over this morning. I'm more interested in venting a little frustration and getting my mind back into focus.
First, the Cardinals played very un-Cardinal like last night. It started in the first inning, when Grudz didn't cover 1st base on a Taveras bunt. That worked out just fine, but it was a sign of things to come.
As in, the 1st Astro run was scored on a passed ball, which was very un-Molina like. Things like that happen, but the game would have had a different feel in the 8th if it had been a tie game instead of a 2-1 Houston lead.
Julian Tavarez continued his crappy post-season by pitching horribly in the 8th inning. (I thought Marquis was the new 8th inning guy?) After the leadoff double to Berkman, Tavarez regrouped a little by getting Ensberg and Lane to ground out. (Side note - Tavarez has been lit up by left handers all season, as I mentioned in a previous post. Having him pitch to the switch hitting Berkman was a bad move off the bat.) Personally, I'm not sure why they didn't intentionally walk Burke at that point to set up force out at any base, but that call could go either way. Whatever the case, Burke singled him in, padding the lead. Then Adam Everett put the game out of reach, and potentially put Reggie Sanders on the shelf - even though that should have been a routine catch.
So...passed ball allows a run. The Cardinals pitch to Burke with a runner in scoring position and 2 outs and it burns them. And Sanders blows a simple play. The Astros took advantage of Cardinal mistakes, basically - just like the Cardinals have been doing to everyone else before last night.
And on one final negative note - let's hope that Sanders is in the lineup and healthy on Saturday for Game 3. It's bad enough that the Cardinals have been reduced to depending on (basically) 4 hitters to score runs for them in October with Walker struggling again. If they can only count on Eckstein, Edmonds, and Pujols for the rest of the playoffs, it could get ugly.
On the plus side - Mulder is obviously fine after taking a liner off the bicep. Edmonds made a great catch, even though he came up short with 2 men on twice last night. Marquis actually got the job done in relief. (Maybe Tony will move him ahead of Tavarez now.) And the Cardinals made Lidge work, even if it was only slightly.
I went into this series thinking the Cardinals should win it, and do so in 5 or 6 games. On top of that, I was only expecting a split of the first 2 games - which makes it even funnier that I'm upset over the loss, since I called it. (Of course, I also thought it would be Morris in Game 2, Mulder in Game 3.) So - like I said before this started - Game 3 is the swing game of the series. If the Cardinals find a way to win, they'll go up 2 games to 1, be looking at facing Backe in Game 4, and bring back Carpenter in Game 5. Driver's Seat City.
If the Astros win Game 3. Well, it won't be over, but it will set up a must win situation on Sunday. As in - while the Cardinals could beat Pettitte, Oswalt, and Clemens in 3 straight games to win the series, it wouldn't exactly be a given.