Cardinals Face Uphill Climb After Losing Game 5 of NLCS
The St. Louis Cardinals still had 3-2 advantage in the National League Championship Series (NLCS), but that may be the team’s only advantage moving forward. If the Cardinals are to advance to the World Series, they will now have to do so in unfriendly confines against two of the best pitchers in National League.
The Cardinals will first take on Ryan Vogelsong in Game 6. Vogelgsong had an excellent 3.37 ERA over the regular season, and he tends to be even better at home (2.86 ERA) than on the road (3.87 ERA). Vogelsong only gave up one earned run and four hits to the Cardinals over seven innings in Game 1 of the NLCS. Meanwhile, the Cardinals starter, Chris Carpenter, gave up six hits and two earned runs over four innings. Carpenter’s error helped contribute to another three unearned runs in that game.
To put it bluntly, the Giants have a decided advantage in the Game 6 pitching matchup. The wildcard is Carpenter, who is certainly capable of shutting down an offense as he displayed in the NLDS. The question is which Carpenter shows up for Game 6.
If the Cardinals fail to win Game 6 they then will face Matt Cain in Game 7. Cain has even better numbers than Vogelsong, with a 2.79 ERA in the regular season and a 2.03 ERA at home. The Cardinals did get to Cain for three earned runs in Game 2 of the NLCS, but Cain was still fairly dominant outside of one bad pitch to Matt Carpenter for a two-run home run.
The Cardinals would counter with Kyle Lohse in a hypothetical Game 7. Lohse struggled in Game 2, giving up seven hits and walking five. Still, Lohse worked out of trouble and only yielded one earned run. Lohse was dominant during the regular season, with a 2.86 ERA, but he also tends to pitch much better at home (2.33 ERA) than on the road (3.41 ERA).
So the bottom line is both pitching matchups favor the Giants moving forward. If the Cardinals are to win their superior offense is going to need to show up in one of the two games. Much as they were during the regular season, the Cardinals’ offense has been Jekyl and Hyde during the NLCS. The Cardinals’ offense scored 14 runs in Games 1 and 4 of the NLCS, but only four runs in the other three games combined.
The Cardinals struggles can mostly be tied to the middle of the order hitters. Matt Holliday is hitting has only a .190 on-base-percentage (OBP) during the series with a matching slugging percentage (SLUG). Allen Craig has an abysmal .211 OBP with a .188 SLUG during the NLCS. Yadier Molina is the exception to the rule, with a .350 OBP and .400 SLUG during the series, but even those numbers are below Molina’s season average OPS.
The formula for the Cardinals moving forward is clear. The Cardinals need one good start out of either Carpenter or Lohse, and one big hit (preferably a multi-run home run) from one of their middle lineup hitters. If the pitching fails and the big bats stay quiet, the Cardinals may face the same fate as the Reds in the NLDS.
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Ryan Witt is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis Cardinals. His work can be found on Examiner.com.