:: Saturday, October 15, 2005 ::

NLCS: After three games, Houston takes the lead
I'm trying to remain upbeat about the St. Louis Cardinals' chances in the National League Championship Series after today's 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros. The loss puts St. Louis down in the best-of-seven series, two games for Houston to one for the Cards. After losing our best post-season hitter, Reggie Sanders, during Game 2 of the series on Thursday, the Cards traveled to Houston for Game 3 with a weaker lineup. (So Taguchi replaced Sanders in left field, which is OK defensively, and I don't mind having Taguchi in the lineup as a contact hitter, but we definitely lose some firepower with Sanders out. And other than Albert Pujols, who is having a great post-season, the rest of the heavy hitters in the Cardinals lineup are having a sub-par series so far.) To make matters worse, Cards third-baseman Abraham Nunez got hurt today. He and Sanders both may miss Game 4 tomorrow.

But, I said I'm trying to remain upbeat. So let's focus on the positives from today's game.

1. Matt Morris. Matt Morris the gamer showed up to pitch today, and he pitched well. True, he gave up a two-run homer to Mike Lamb, but Lamb has had Morris's number for a long time anyway, so I wasn't surprised when Lamb lifted Morris' hanging curve. Aside from that mistake, Morris was crafty through 5 innings. Then he gave up a couple of hits in the fifth, and things started to turn bad.

2. The bullpen. The Cardinals relievers have performed horribly during the playoffs. But today, a ray of hope shone through. Brad Thompson, Randy Flores and Julian Tavarez all fared well today -- especially Tavarez, who held Houston scoreless in the eighth inning. St. Louis needs its bullpen to hold opposing teams if the Cardinals are going to get anywhere.

3. 'Unhittable' Brad Lidge. The Houston closer has held St. Louis scoreless for the past 7,000 innings or so. But today, the Cardinals finally broke through, scoring a run off Lidge in the ninth inning. Lidge proved he is not invincible. Perhaps that will give Cardinals batters some confidence for the next couple of games -- or (hopefully) more.

Game 4 is Sunday, and if the Cardinals lose, we are one game away from elimination. St. Louis' Jeff Suppan will start against Houston's Brandon Backe. I feel good about Suppan's chances. But he'll need run support. Jim Edmonds, who usually kills Houston pitching, has been ineffective. He needs to start hitting. (K Jo, I was hoping he'd pull through for you today, as a birthday gift. But he didn't. Happy Birthday anyway, K Jo!) Larry Walker and Mark Grudzielanek need to come through, too -- especially Grudz, who is swinging the bat horribly. And of course, Pujols needs to stay on course, and we need the bullpen.

, , , ,

:: Andrew 20:02 + ::

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