All the talk today is going to be about Chris Carpenter. Before we get into that, let's look at last night's game.
Hero: Albert Pujols. Tied it up with a home run and then took the lead with more of his infamous baserunning. You may hate it when he risks and loses, but when he gets it right (which seems to be most of the time), it really is a wonderful thing.
I also want to single out Ryan Franklin. I've been on him pretty hard as a closer, and, honestly, he scared me even when he was in the setup role. But the numbers don't entirely lie. He did a good job before in that role and was great in it last night, even getting a win out of it.
Goat: He's as streaky as they come, isn't he? Troy Glaus had another hitless night while everyone around him was pounding the ball. Save them for when we need you, Troy.
Cubs win again, so the Cards are within one of Milwaukee (and the wild card) while staying four back of the Cubs. The hope going in was that the Brewers and Cubs would split while the Cards won in Atlanta. It'd be real nice to see the Brewers take a game tonight.
OK, so Carpenter. How hard is it to believe that when he last took the mound, the Cardinals were starting their defense of the World Series title? Some things have changed since he pitched for St. Louis last, haven't they. That'll happen when 485 days pass.
Some people think he needs more rehab starts. But it's obvious that he's already better than what we have in the back of the rotation. So what if he only goes five innings? That's all those pitchers are doing anyway, and hopefully he can do it with less damage. He's not having pain or anything, it's just a question of stamina and control. Besides, now that Teixeira's gone from Atlanta, the Braves are pretty darn close to a minor league team anyway.
So what do we expect out of Carpenter tonight? It seems to span the spectrum from "It's Chris Carpenter! Cy Young!" to "Another broken-down has been." I think we'll see some good stuff out of Carp tonight, while he's out there. I'm terrible at predicting numbers, but I'd guess five innings, four hits, three earned, three walks, four K. Something in that neighborhood. Leave your predictions in the comments and we'll see who is closest.
It's not like the Braves will know what's coming. Carp doesn't have a whole lot of history with the current makeup of the squad. Which is what the Cardinals have been having lately, facing three pitchers in a row that no one had ever seen. Tonight, the streak continues, but this is no last-minute callup or rotation filler that they'll be facing. Jair Jurrjens is a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year. He was able to shut out the Phillies for eight innings in their own pitcher-hating ballpark. You aren't likely to do that on a fluke. The only NL Central team he has faced is Pittsburgh and has split the two starts against them with a 4.36 ERA against them.
And in other ace news, Wainwright isn't quite ready for a rehab assignment. Whether that is due to his results in yesterday's side session or not is a matter of opinion. Unfortunately, this means he won't be ready for the Cub series in Wrigley next weekend. Carpenter should get to pitch the series finale, though, so at least one of the big guns will be in use.
Folks, the season is over 2/3rds over and the Cards are still in the race. No matter what happens from here, it's been a darn good run.