|What? No, I haven't seen this movie. But, you know, it's called Happiness. I'm sure it's an uplifting, inspirational kind of story. Why are you looking at me like that? |
Good time to be a Cardinal
fan, right? I mean, the Redbirds just took care of business last night in game one of the World Series, beating the Texas Rangers
3-2. They're playing their best ball of the year at exactly the right time, and have been on said hot streak since the beginning of September.
But, just in case you're one of those miserable people (like myself), who can't be happy about the outcome of the game because you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop and things to go wrong, I thought I would try to help you out. Give you something -- or things -- more tangible to really latch on to. Three things, in fact. Why three? Because three is the magic number, silly.
Actually, I'll give you one extra thing to feel optimistic about, but not really happy about. Josh Hamilton, the Rangers' all-star outfielder, does not look healthy to me. He's been fighting a groin injury for a while, and I think it's limiting him. He looked tentative last night both swinging the bat and running in the outfield, and while you never like seeing a player injured, if he's compromised it makes a definite difference in the Rangers' chances.
But anyway, enough of all that. Let's get real happy. Happy without disclaimer. Happy like your team just won a World Series game. Because, you know, they did.
1. Chris Carpenter --
Yesterday, not only had the Cards' starting pitching been just awful in the NLCS, Chris Carpenter was quite possibly hurt. The only starter to actually make it through five innings and record a victory in the Philadelphia series, and now he's hurt. Things were looking a might bleak on the starting front for the Redbirds.
Well, one solid performance does not change the reality of a struggling rotation. Nor does one good night erase the health concerns around Carp's achy right elbow. But one six inning, two run performance does equate to a win, one of the four the Cards need to take home the title.
Carpenter wasn't at his absolute best last night; his vaunted curveball was noticeably AWOL. He threw 39 curves out of 110 pitches in his masterful performance against the Phillies. Last night, he threw just 7 benders out of 87 pitches. Still, he made only one really big mistake last night -- the pitch Mike Napoli hit off into the next county -- and was more than good enough. He could have gone deeper, but the Cards took advantage of the chance to get Allen Craig into the game as a pinch-hitter and took the lead, so Carp's night ended a bit early.
2. Marc Rzepczynski -- I should really make this one the whole bullpen; once again the Cards' relief corps was simply brilliant for all three innings they were in the game. But Rzepczynski's performance was the most impressive to me, as he struck out a pair of right-handed hitters with a pair of men on base. So he gets singled out.
The Scrabbler has been up and down this season; there were a few times in August when it seemed he had simply replaced Trever Miller as the club's go-to guy when they absolutely, positively had to walk a left-handed hitter. But in the postseason, Rzepczynski has been money, first against the Phillies' lefty-heavy lineup, then against Prince Fielder, and now in one of the game's biggest situation against a pair of righties.
I don't know if there's any way the Cardinals will actually have a rotation spot open next year to try out one of their younger arms, but I would love to see Rzepczynski get a chance at starting. His minor league track record would seem to indicate he could certainly handle the responsibilities, and while I do enjoy watching him perform so well out of the 'pen, his value would skyrocket pitching out of the rotation.
Okay, I can't just leave it at Scrabble. Jason Motte threw more than one cutter to Nelson Cruz, and all of them were good. We've all wondered for the last three years what it would look like if Jason Motte could just find a second pitch to complement his heater; considering he threw his offspeed pitch to finish game one of the World Series, I think we may know what it looks like now. Spoiler alert: it looks good.
3.The DH Situation -- After tonight's game, the Cardinals will be off to Arlington for three games in the Rangers' ballpark, meaning American League rules will apply. Which means, of course, the designated hitter will be in play. That usually puts National League teams at a disadvantage; AL teams plan for an extra bopper in their lineup NL teams just don't have use for.
The Cards, though, will have an almost ideal DH situation due to the presence of Allen Craig on the roster. He's exactly the sort of hitter you want to plug into your lineup; the fact the Cards don't often have room to get him on the field is testament to the remarkable depth of their offense. Personally, I would slide Lance Berkman into the DH spot to give his legs a bit of a rest, but however the team chooses to handle it I'm okay with.
Lance Berkman said last night he thought Allen Craig could probably hit fourth for most of the teams in baseball; I'm not entirely sure of that. He may have been taking a bit of, um, we'll call it artistic license in pumping up his teammate. Even so, the fact remains Allen Craig is a quality major league hitter, and the Cards are going to get a chance to add him to the lineup every night beginning in game three.
The Cardinals are in a very good position. They took the first game of the series, and they have one of those getaway day games coming up tonight they haven't lost in over two months. If they can take tonight's game, even with three upcoming in Texas you have to like their chances.
So there. Feel happy now?