Start Shuffling Those Cards!

This was the NLCS most of the baseball world thought least likely.

The Mets, decimated by shocking injury to half of its starting rotation, were expected to wobble and fall over under the weight of the disappointment and shock etched in losing Pedro and El Duque within a week's time of each other, just before the playoffs were to begin.

The Cardinals, who had held a strangle hold over the NL Central for most of the season, fell prey to a sudden and mysterious collapses (three losing streaks of seven games or more,) which nearly ended their season prematurely and saw a 7 game lead blown over the final 13. Although they survived the regular season, just, everyone was certain they would be over and done within three or four games maximum.

And yet here these two teams are in the NLCS, still standing, a testament to either the courage and teamwork required native in a winning side or the weakness of the NL West, the division that spawned two playoff teams and two surprise losers.

So what to make of this series?

Well for one, on paper, a little lopsided. According to mlb.com, the regular-season 13 1/2-game spread between the 97-win Mets and the 83-win Cardinals is the widest in an NLCS since 1975, when the Reds had a 15 1/2-game edge on a Pittsburgh team they swept.

But we know better than to be fooled by paper, fact, rumour and innuendo.

The Cardinals pose a significant threat to the Mets inspite of losing 4 of their 6 regular season games against them. Those two games that the Cardinals managed to sneak out of Busch Stadium on the 17th and 18th of May consisted of a shutout by Mike Mulder and the carpet bombing of Jose Lima, both of whom are now gone.

They share a common disease of injury and misfortune these two teams so there's a likelihood that someone like Scott Spiezio (replacing Scott Rolan)or Endy Chavez (replacing Cliff Floyd,) will sneak up and snatch the series.

So what's going to happen?

Well, opening at Shea with their two best remaining pitchers, the Mets are solid favourites to take Games One and Two. One suspects Glavine can be counted on for a solid outing in the first opening game but watch out for the disturbing factor of Scott Rolen being in the lineup for at least this game since his numbers against Glavine are frightening. Rolen is 19-for-53 in his career against Glavine. Eight of those 19 hits have been for extra bases, and Rolen has 14 walks to seven strikeouts in his career against Glavine. Something to consider when you're getting goosy about a certain Mets victory to open.

Then the Mets will count on John Maine to continue being the most impressive rookie starting in the NLCS. That is, unless Anthony Reyes gets the start in Game Four for the Cards...

The Cards have the Jeffs, Weaver and Suppan going for them in the first pair of games. Weaver is familiar if only for being one of those guys who couldn't hack it in the klieg lights of the NYC media. Yes, he gave up only two hits and no runs in five innings against the Padres in the NLCS but that was in San Diego and well, against the Padres. Even after that start his cumulative postseason ERA is 6.08 in 6 starts for the Yankees, Dodgers and Cards. Suppan has nearly a run better ERA on the road than at home but watch out. He's got plenty of postseason experience and a 2.65 ERA in three starts over the last two years for the Cardinals in the NLCS. Nonethless, the Army is buying into the idea that barring a shocking start, or suprising and unmatched offence from out of nowhere by the Cardinals, the Mets are good candidates to go to Busch Stadium with a 2-0 lead.

Game Three will likely pit Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals ace (5-0 in playoff games he's started,) against the Mets favourite pitching dunce, Steve Trachsel. Here things will get interesting. In spite of an unsavoury reputation preceding him, Trachsel is actually a lucky charm for the Mets. Including his start Saturday in Game 3 of the NLDS, the Mets' record in his 31 starts is 21-10. It is 17-6 in his last 23 starts. In fact, he started both clinching game for the Mets this season - the NL East title and the NLDS. Clearly not even the Mets can clinch a 7 game series in 3 but it's something to ponder should something go wrong in Games 1 or 2 and you're looking for some silver lining.

Game Four is when it starts to get interesting. Firstly, you've got good ole Ollie Perez waiting in the wings, our honourable Victor Zambrano piƱata for 2006. But don't fall in love with the idea of Ollie starting Game Four, no matter what the papers say. Think Dave Williams for a minute. Think that Williams pitched against the Cardinals once already this season and went 6 1/3 innings allowing just two runs. Think that Williams has nine career starts against the Cardinals and is 3-5 with a 4.33 ERA.

For the Cardinals you've got TBA. At the minute, it looks like the rookie Reyes might be the slight favourite over Jason Marquis but it's apples and apples in this case with both pitchers matching each other for futility.

It's anybody's guess but the Army's is this:

Mets in Five


sanchez said...

I see it like this:
Mets win one, lose two.
Win game four to tie it.
Win games five and six to close it out just as Beltran wakes up and has a monster series.
My biggest question is whether or not Reyes will wake up in time...

kfleko said...

this series needs only one thing, sanchez. Mets hitting. So long as they don't slump, this series is in da bag...

girlysportsrant said...

Not really a surprise that these 2 teams are here. Did you really expect the crap NL WEST teams to get this far?

Prediction: Mets in 6

Abe said...

Reyes will wake up in time. The Mets in five.

This guy needs to be taken behind the woodshed and beaten. Where does he get off?