ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Before we get into tonight’s Game 4 of the National League Divison series, here are some observations about yesterday’s Game 3 at Busch Stadium:
- The biggest factor in the 3-2 loss was leaving 14 runners on base. That’s an obscene amount, even against a terrific pitcher like Cole Hamels. The Phillies’ pitchers were hittable in Game 3. Hamels teetered a couple of times…but to his credit, never toppled over. The Cards’ offense needed to break through and could not get the big hit against Hamels or the Phils’ bullpen. The home crowd was quaking and wanted to erupt. Badly. But they never had that opportunity.
- There were a lot of misses, but the biggest was Allen Craig’s double-play groundout with the bases loaded and one out. I really like Craig’s potential as a big league star. But you cannot hit a ground ball in that situation. With Albert Pujols standing in the on-deck circle, a strikeout doesn’t kill you…but a double play does. Oof. That was rough.
- Jaime Garcia was excellent for six innings last night. You could tell early in the game that Garcia was in a rhythm. But I’m pinch-hitting for him in the bottom of the sixth with two runners on and two outs. That’s a chance to get on the scoreboard and get your fresh bullpen humming. Garcia is an out. And he wasn’t going to be able to pitch for much longer, anyway.
- I’m definitely warming someone in the bullpen for possible entry sometime in the top of the seventh. With Garcia showing some vulnerability, Tony La Russa ordered an intentional walk to Carlos Ruiz to get to pinch-hitter Ben Francisco (1-9 vs. Garcia prior to his AB). However, it’s a moot point if you have a reliever (Octavio Dotel) out on the hill to face Ruiz and Francisco. As it turned out, Francisco turned on a Garcia mistake up in the zone and tattooed his first home run since May 25. Just like that: 3-0.
- The passed ball by Yadier Molina in the seventh really hurt. It messed up a potential double play by allowing Shane Victorino to advance to second base. Rare miss by Molina. (What if Lance Berkman’s alert throw to Rafael Furcal had nailed Victorino at second base for a double play? Ahh, baseball.)
All of that said, the Cardinals played an entertaining brand of baseball last night. And that will serve them well this evening, because they have to know they can beat the Phillies with just a couple more timely hits.
Roy Oswalt, the Phillies’ starter tonight, is a tough customer. This will be his 11th career postseason start. Oswalt enjoys the challenge of October and won’t hesitate to come after the Cardinals’ hitters. There will be fastballs to rip. If I’m the Cardinals, I wait for Oswalt to make a mistake and pounce. Make him work; don’t allow him to be comfortable on the mound.
As for Edwin Jackson, look for the hard-throwing righthander to be aggressive from the get-go. Jackson will try to make the Phillies put the ball in play and allow his defense to make plays. I’ve been impressed with Jackson’s demeanor on the mound and his competitive spirit. He’ll look to attack the Phillies’ lineup in his first-ever postseason start.
Once again, there will be a lot of emotion tonight surrounding Pujols, who could be playing his last game as a Cardinal in St. Louis. (I believe Pujols will re-sign with the Redbirds, but that’s another column for later.) The fascinating aspect is how Pujols deals with any distractions (ovations, shadows on the field, nagging pain, etc.) and performs in the most important game of the season. Never doubt Pujols and his ability to lock in and focus.
And we know better than to count out this Cardinals team.
It should be another heart-pounding night of baseball at 700 Clark Street. If the Cardinals’ fans had their way, they’d prefer the sight of the Cards’ bats pounding away at the Phillies’ offerings. We’ll see.
Enjoy the night…
Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX. He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on “Total Information A.M.” Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120