So now it all comes down to taking care of business at home. The Cardinals, after erupting for 16 runs in game 3, have managed only 2 runs in their last 2 games, and their backs are now against the wall after dropping both games and now trail the series 3-2.
8:05 PM EST
Moneyline: TEX (21/20), STL (20/23)
Colby Lewis will get the chance to bring a championship to Texas tonight, as he takes the stage in a game of unprecidented importance in his career.
“Well, you definitely think when you’re a kid, you want to be in this position…” Lewis beamed. Certainly, this opportunity doesn’t come that often in a player’s career, but facing Jamie Garcia will not allow for an easy victory. Garcia has been especially effective at home, where he boasts a 1.93 ERA in his four post-season starts. Last outing, Garcia gave up only 3 hits in 7 innings, but the Cardinals failed to provide him with run support and the bullpen melted down following his shutout 7 innings.
Garcia is approaching the game as he has any other, though, saying he “[doesn’t want] to try to do too much because this is the World Series.” While that is all good and well, the pressure associated with the game is inescapable.
The Cardinals, however, are going to need more offense to win. Last game, in the 4-2 loss, only one player, Yadier Molina, recorded a multiple hit game. Pujols went 0 for 2 and Lance Berkman went 0 for 3. For a team that relies so heavily on the heart of their order, that is simply not going to cut it. The Cards were 1 of 12 with runners in scoring position, as well. Manager Tony LaRussa said he expects good pitching, and that he’s “challenging (the) bats to do more.”
Perhaps the biggest concern for the Cardinals will be who to pitch in Game 7 should they come through as they are slightly favored to tonight. Chris Carpenter volunteered for the duty, sarcastically emphasizing the importance of the game, saying “I think everybody’s available for the rest of the year, don’t you?” Certainly, calling on Carpenter could be the answer for the Cards, but looking on to game 7 is obviously premature and futile if they can’t take care of business tonight. Matt Harrison will pitch the game for the Rangers, and that isn’t a good sign for them, as he was the starting pitcher in the 16 run bonanza that the Cardinals put on in Game 3.
Colby Lewis is looking at it simply as a situation where the Rangers must win one of two games, but that may not be the proper perspective. A loss tonight would be devestating from the standpoint that facing Carpenter is the last thing the Rangers want when they are trotting out a guy who only lasted 3 innings in game 3.
The Cardinals do only have two batters hitting above .300 for this series (Berkman and David Freese), but seeing Pujols walk every time has to be disconcerting. After his 3 homer game 3, he was walked 3 of 5 at bats in game 5, and his average dipped to .278 after failing to record a hit in the 2 opportunities they did pitch to him. Cards 3Bman Freese will need to recapture the magic he has had earlier in this post season, when he recorded 4 of 5 multiple game hits agianst the Brewers, including a 3 for 4 outing in the decisive Game 7. So Freese can come up big in clutch situations.
While the Rangers appear to be in control, I still expect this series to settle itself as I said it would in the series preview. The Cardinals are happy to be back at home and bettors will be wise to back them tonight. I still feel confident that Saint Louis will win this series on the strength of their best two pitchers, but they need to get the bats going to make that a reality. With Garcia taking the mound, the opportunity will be there for the slight favorites to push a decisive game 7. Yahoo! Sports experts Tim Brown, Steve Henson, and Kevin Kaduk all backed the Rangers going into this series, while only Jeff Passan supported my series prediction of the Cardinals winning this one. For Passan and myself to be right, it starts tonight, and there’s no better way for the Cards to close out this series than with their best two pitchers in Garcia and Carpenter.