2011 World Series: The Cardinals’ Rotation From Here On Out
For a number of reasons, the St. Louis Cardinals dropped Game 2 after taking a 1-0 lead into the 9th inning. The Texas Rangers were opportunistic in their base running and their hitting, the Cards were less than crisp on defense, and Tony LaRussa made a questionable but fateful decision in pulling Jason Motte from the game before he’d given up the lead. A series tied at 1-1 looks immensely different than one sitting at 2-0. And LaRussa may have some even bigger decisions ahead.
Now it appears we’re headed for a barn-burner of a World Series, which is not unlike what most thought this series would be from the beginning. Yes, the Cards lost in disappointing fashion last night. But, technically, the Rangers did the same thing in Game 1. And with the way these two teams played their respective LCS, No one could have predicted scores of 3-2 and 2-1 to start this series. So even though conditions will be vastly different in Arlington for the next three days and the offenses could really come alive, the old adage of “pitching wins championships” will probably still hold true. The question for the Cards is, do they have enough?
Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia are clearly the Cardinals’ best two starters, and the team split their starts. But both pitched masterfully compared to what they gave the team in the LCS. Whether they figured something out, or just fooled the Rangers’ hitters enough, or benefitted from the weather, or ANYTHING out of just them pitching well contributed will never be known. So now the Cards are relying on Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson to contain the Rangers’ lineup in Arlington and keep the Redbirds in this World Series. If they cannot do so and the Rangers go up 3-1, the Cards have their stopper ready in Carpenter, who will be on regular rest. In that situation, there’s no one we’d rather see on the mound. He’s the best candidate to stave off elimination and get the series back to St. Louis where Jaime Garcia would have the job of forcing Game 7. And the Cardinals would rest their Game 7 hopes on…who?
This is where things get hairy for the Cards. I’ve been agonizing over this ever since I found out I have tickets for Game 7: Who will be the starter for that game, if it’s played? Conventional wisdom states it would be whomever starts Game 3, which at this point looks like Lohse. Theoretically, the Cards could go with whoever pitches better between Lohse and Jackson. It’s tough to imagine the Cardinals having their entire unexpectedly magical season come down to Game 7 of the World Series at Busch Stadium and one of the top two starters aren’t on the mound. The only other guy who could make the start is Jake Westbrook. And he would probably be the least desirable option of the five considering he hasn’t started a game since September 27, a start where he gave up five earned runs to the Houston Astros. This is not a guy you want to pin your World Series Game 7 hopes on.
But what about your Game 5 hopes?
What if the Cardinals find themselves 2-2 going into Game 5? That would guarantee at least one game back at Busch Stadium no matter who won the last game in Texas. It seems like a no-brainer that Carpenter get that Game 5 start, because he gives the Cards their best chance to go up 3-2. But what happens if he loses the game? Or what if the bullpen loses it, or if Carp give up one run but the Cards don’t score any? Then the Cardinals are bound to the Garcia/question mark to try to nail down the team’s 11th World Championship. The only other option would be to have Westbrook start Game 5. Scary? Yes. But if Game 5 is not an elimination game, they’re guaranteed at least one more game in St. Louis. And in the absence of Adam Wainwright, there’s no more formidable task for the Rangers to have to undertake than needing to beat Carpenter and/or Garcia in St. Louis. They haven’t done it so far.
A lot has to happen before this situation even comes up. But I honestly would be surprised if this series doesn’t go at least six games. And I’m not sure if this Westbrook theory works with the Cards up 3-1. Maybe it makes it easier? I don’t know. I really cannot get this idea out of my head. Is it the worst idea in the world?