03 October 2006

DPD: National League Playoff Preview

Cardinals Lose, but Win; Astros' Star Fades

See? I told you the Astros wouldn't make it this year!

But man, were they darn close.

It was a fairly convoluted set of circuimstances that would have gotten the Houstons into the playoffs again, but with the Cardinals having lost eight games of their 8.5 game lead in less than two weeks, it seemed like it just might be plausible. The Astros had to win and the Cards had to lose on Sunday, which would have left the St. Louises with a half-game lead, and they'd have had to play a make-up game with the Giants on Monday. If they lost that game, they would have had a one-game, winner-take-all playoff with Houston on Tuesday for the NL Central title, with the winner of that game starting its series against the NL West winner on Wednesday. Talk about an intense schedule.

Unfortunately Houston lost on Sunday, 3-1 to Atlanta, ending the possibility of what would have been the most dramatic collapse in MLB history. (That title still belongs to the 1964 Phillies. Couldn't have happened to a better city.)

In any case, the Cardinals "won" their division with a pretty unimpressive 83-78 record, and are only 36-39 since the All-Star Break. They've still got the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner in Chris Carpenter, but he's given up 12 runs in 15 innings in his last two starts. Jeff Suppan has been his usual LAIM self, maybe aeven a little better than that, but the rest of the staff is full of question marks. Will young Anthony Reyes be able to buckle down under playoff pressure? Will Jeff Weaver pitch like someone who deserves to make over $8 million? Will Jason Marquis (2-8, 6.96 ERA since the start of August) um...not suck? Will the makeshift bullpen be able to keep their crap together? The bullpen is only 10-of-17 in save opportunities since the All-Star Break, and only 3-of-6 in September.

The Cards still have the best hitter in the National League at first base and some solid guys in Chris Duncan and Scott Rolen, but Jim Edmonds is a shell of his former self, and nobody else in the lineup is particularly scary.

Read the rest at Double Play Depth...

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