KMOX, St. Louis—Well it’s hard to believe we are talking about October baseball for the Cards for the first time in a couple of years after an incredible run in September and an incredible collapse by the Atlanta Braves. Who would have thought this would happen at the end of August? So now the Redbirds have the task of taking on the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies, who the Cards actually had success against winning 6 of 9 games this year. Here are my keys to St. Louis getting the upset special against the Phils:
1) Starting Pitching. If you look at when the Cardinals played there best baseball during the 2011 campaign the starting rotations success played a huge role. The first two months the Cards were able to overcome injuries and blown saves because the starting pitching was terrific and that propelled the Birds to a lead in the division. The same can be said for the last month of the season as the Cards made their drive to the playoffs. The starting rotation saw more consistency and hence they made the playoffs. It’s important for the starting staff to go toe to toe with the great Phillies starting staff. The Cards can’t afford to fall behind big early in games.
2) Health. It looks as if Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday will be on the roster for this division series. But the Cardinals need these guys in the every day lineup as soon as possible against the powerful Phils. Furcal is important to not only set the table as the leadoff man, but his glove is needed despite some deficiancies in the field the last couple of weeks. And for obvious reasons it’s vital to get Holliday in there to provide that threat in the middle of the order.
3) Fundamentals. The last two years may have been the worst Cardinals teams in terms of fundamentals I have seen. This is a pet peave of mine and it’s really frustrating to watch the errors and base running blunders. As we all know in the playoffs in all of pro sports every play is magnified and hopefully the Cards will put on their thinking caps, catch a geenie in the bottle and play good sound baseball. When you play teams like the Phillies and you make mistakes, they will make you pay.
4) Closing games. Even though Tony LaRussa won’t officially name Jason Motte the closer, there’s no doubt he has that role now. It seems like the team has had a dozen of them this year with the lack of success at that role. And of course the bullpen cost the team too many games this season. Motte needs to continue his success he had in September and shut down the Phillies in the late innings when given the opportunity.
5) Attitude. We all know Tony LaRussa is wound up really tight. He’s as intense as they come. But sometimes that can have a negative effect on his team. I think this team should play free and easy because they aren’t suppose to be in the playoffs and no one is giving them a chance to beat the Phils. All the pressure should be on Philly because they’re the heavy favorite to win the World Series.
The odds are against the Cards to advance past the NLDS, but who would have thought it was LaRussa’s 2006 team that would take home the World Title.
Scott Warmann is a host on the Sports Hub