Monday, October 6, 2014

John Lackey's big game and Kolten Wong's blast lead Cardinals to game three win

John Lackey came up big again and the Cardinals took advantage of the Dodgers shaky bullpen to win game three and give themselves a 2-1 lead in the NLDS.

Lackey, who was acquired in a controversial trade in which the Cards gave up Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, lived up to his big game reputation, allowing just 1 run in 7 innings.  However, he was matched by Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who allowed just 1 run in 6 innings despite making his first start since September 12th.

However, Ryu was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the 7th and the Cardinals jumped on reliever Scott Elbert to the tune of 2 runs on 3 hits, with the big blow Kolten Wong's 2-run homer. 

The Cardinals power surge has been surprising this postseason, with 6 homers in 3 games (Matt Carpenter has 3 of those, homering in each game), after finishing the regular season last in the NL with just 105 homers.

Now, with an series edge, the Cards are going to have to close it out against two of the best pitchers in the NL, as Clayton Kershaw will pitch on short rest tomorrow, followed by Zach Greinke in game 5 (if necessary).

The matchup tomorrow should favor the Cards, as Kershaw is 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in his postseason career, including 0-3 with a 8.10 ERA in his last 3 postseason starts against the Cardinals.  Plus, pitchers going on short rest rarely fair well in the postseason.

However, this is still Kershaw that we are talking about.  The reigning Cy Young award winner and the guy most likely to win it again this year.  So you can throw all those prior stats out the door.  He will be out to prove himself and the Cards will have their work cut out for them.

He will be opposed by Shelby Miller, who was one of the Cardinals hottest pitchers down the stretch, with a 2-0 record and 1.48 ERA in his last 5 starts of the season.  However, he is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA this year and 1-1 with a 6.57 ERA in his career against the Dodgers.

The Cards will hope to at least keep the game close so that they can exploit the Dodger's bullpen, which has given up 6 runs in 6.1 innings so far. 

In any case, tomorrow is the game we want as we certainly don't want to head back to L.A. and have to face Greinke again  (1-0, with a 1.64 record in his last 3 postseason starts against the Cards). 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tomorrow we get to see if the Cardinals' John Lackey really is a big game pitcher

After splitting the first two games of the NLDS, in part due to an improbable comeback in game one against the NL's best pitcher and likely Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, the Cardinals return home for two games starting Monday night.

Taking the mound for the Cardinals is John Lackey, otherwise known as the guy the Cards traded both Allen Craig and Joe Kelly for back in July.  Lackey will be making his first postseason appearance since winning game 6 of the 2013 World Series against the Cardinals.

Lackey has earned a bit of a reputation as a big game pitcher, with people noting that he out dueled Detroit ace Justin Verlander last year in game 3 of the ALCS and of course his big win in game 6 of the World Series.

However, is he really all that clutch? 

This is Lackey's 6th postseason.  His first postseason with the Angels back in 2002 was pretty special, as he went 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA including winning game 7 of the World Series against the Giants.

Last year was also kinda special, as he earned his second World Series ring while going 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA.

However, in between, he has gone 1-4 with a 3.40 ERA, not terrible stats, at least from an ERA standpoint, but hardly the resume of a "big game" pitcher.

Sometimes players can build a reputation from just a few games or one great season, weather its warranted or not.  Just ask Allen Craig, who hit .454 with RISP in 2013, how "clutch" he was in 2014. 

As statisticians always say, "beware of small sample sizes". 

So while Cardinals fans are hoping for another "big game" performance from Lackey in game 3, I'll just be hoping for a win.