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Sometimes when you sit down to preview a series, you look at all the various factors: hitting, pitching, defense. We preview games looking at the starter pitching and the opposing team’s success when facing that particular starter.
Then Tony LaRussa arrives in the League Championship Series and proves that you cannot predict the actions of a managerial genius.
LaRussa has approached each game of the LCS as if it were a “bullpen start”. Looking to get four innings to five innings out of his starters so he could lean on the part of his team that has recently as July 1 was the weakness. The relievers.
It was the days leading up to the trading deadline that the Cardinals made some moves to shore up a bullpen that had failed them to that point. Left handed relievers Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes were brought in alongside veteran Octavio Dotel. Jason Motte became the pitcher that would be called on in the ninth inning, though LaRussa still refuses to call him the team’s closer. Mitchell Boggs, Lance Lynn and Kyle McClellan found their roles a bit more defined and were used in situations that better fit their strength. LaRussa had a bullpen full of arms that he could utilize to matchup against hitters that would struggle against each of them. Because of that, he changed the strategical game in a short series with scheduled off days.
To this point, it has worked remarkably well. The bullpen has shown very little sign of fatigue, has been called upon early and often in high leverage situations, and the Cardinals enjoy a three games to two lead as they pull into Miller Park looking to take one of the next two games and punch their ticket to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers. In fact, many believe that the only reason the teams return to Milwaukee in this series is because LaRussa did not go to the bullpen earlier in a very win-able game four.
The Brewers send struggling starter Shaun Marcum to the mound with their backs firmly against the wall. Marcum’s track record at the end of the season, not to mention the postseason, would suggest that he may be on a very short leash here in game six. If the Cardinals jump out to an early lead, Ron Roenicke will be questioned repeatedly about this choice.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, send a fairly steady Edwin Jackson to the mound opposite of Marcum to try to nail down the pennant and head home to St. Louis to prepare for Texas. EJax, one of the players added at the trade deadline that allowed for McClellan’s return to the bullpen, is pitching in his first postseason and is thrust into a high pressure situation in a ballpark that easily plays to the mantra “home field advantage”.
Strange Tidbit: The Brewers and Cardinals will play today in Milwaukee while the St. Louis Rams visit the Green Bay Packers. Should the Cardinals advance to the World Series, next Sunday will provide game four of the fall classic from Arlington, Texas while the Rams will face off against the Dallas Cowboys.
Game six and seven (if needed) are always an “anyone’s ballgame” moment. The Cardinals appear to have the upper hand, but it is hard to discount the Brewers and what they have done this season. Both teams will look to keep the other’s offense in check, but this one has all the makings of a high scoring affair. The roof will be closed at Miller Park for the first time this series leading to a loud and crazy playoff environment.
That’s the way it should be.
Topics: arthur rhodes, Boggs, Brewers, bullpen, Cardinals, Lcs, League Championship Series, Marcum, Mcclellan, Miller Park, Ninth Inning, Octavio Dotel, Preview Games, Starters, Strategical Game, Texas Rangers, Three Games, Ticket To The World, Tony LaRussa, Two Games