By Ryan Witt
After the St. Louis Cardinals’ 1-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants last night the NLCS is now assured of going to at least five games. Now the Cardinals are officially presented with the predicament of who to start in what is sure to be a crucial Game Five. Kyle Lohse is set to pitch Game Three, and Adam Wainwright is scheduled for Game Four. Here are the Cardinals’ options for Game Five:
The first, and most likely option, involves simply bringing back Lance Lynn for Game Five on normal rest after Lynn started Game One. Lynn has the most regular season wins (18) of any pitcher the Cardinals could throw out there for Game Five. Lynn had a great first half of the season, then struggled in the second half and was eventually sent to the bullpen. Then in late September, Lynn was brought back in the rotation with a good deal of success.
Lynn began Game One with three innings of no-hit baseball before falling apart in the fourth inning and yielding four runs. If the Cardinals think they can fix Lynn’s fourth-inning issues, they will probably bring him back for Game Five.
The upside with Kelly is that he certainly has the stuff to get Giant hitters out. Kelly features a high 90s fastball, with movement, and an improving breaking ball that keep hitters off balance.
The downside to starting Kelly is that he is a rookie, and he has already pitched more innings this year than any previous year in his career. Kelly was drafted as a reliever out of college, then converted to a starting pitcher in the minor leagues. Asking this converted rookie starter to start an NLCS game may be asking too much.
Carpenter just started Game Two of the NLCS, so starting him in Game Five would only give him three days rest. Carpenter has gained a reputation of being super human after coming back from a radical surgery just months earlier to produce quality starts for the Cardinals. However, starting Carpenter on short rest after the surgery would likely be tempting fate, and there is really no reason to press the issue with so many other quality arms available to the team.
If the Cardinals make their decision based purely on who has the best arsenal of pitches, they would certainly go with Rosenthal, who features a fastball that reaches triple digits and a good breaking ball. Rosenthal has made hitters look silly at times in September and in the postseason.
Still, Rosenthal is an unlikely choice since he has only been used in relief since being called up from the minor leagues. Using Rosenthal in Game Five would also preclude the Cardinals from using him in Games Three and Four.
A Bullpen Start
No matter who the Cardinals pick the chosen starter will probably have a very short leash. With Shelby Miller, Kelly, and Rosenthal in the bullpen, manager Michael Matheny will be able to quick go to “Plan B” should the main option falter. In addition, none of the options above can really be expected to go deep into a game.
Ryan Witt is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis Cardinals. His work can be found on Examiner.com.