03

The Cardinals Are Coming...Tra-La...Tra-La...

I cannot believe the Cardinals won that game.

Hell, when they tied it, I couldn't believe the game was 4-4.

It honestly felt like the series was over after the first inning.

But, then again, how many times have Cardinal fans felt like it was all over this season?

I tweeted that this one was going to be similar to the 2004 World Series...in that, at the pace the game and series was on, it was going to be quick and relatively painless.

And, then...all of the sudden...the Cardinals got to Cliff Lee.

Holy shit.


I can't believe the Cardinals won that game.

The Cardinals hadn't come back from a four-run deficit in the playoffs since Game 3 of the 1987 NLCS against the Giants. With all due respect to Atlee Hammaker, Cliff Lee is a little bit more difficult.

And, the Cardinals ripped him. 12 hits. Five runs. Could've been and should've been much more, too. That's something else.

Personally, I'm surprised Charlie Manuel left Lee in the game into the 7th inning. He had already thrown 101 pitches and given up 10 hits with the heart of the Cardinal order coming up. Three hits later...Lee was gone...and the Cardinals were ahead.

But, if I'm going to be chastising Manuel for leaving Lee in too long, I have to discuss Tony La Russa starting Chris Carpenter on three days of rest.

True stories:

1. We barely even discussed the possibility of La Russa starting Carpenter in Game Two on The ITD Morning After. It was either Garcia or Jackson. And, I was of the opinion to go with Jackson. While Edwin Jackson doesn't have the name recognition or bulldog personality reputation that Carpenter has, the guy has allowed more than two earned runs twice since July 29th. Keep Garcia for Game Four at home...where his splits are incredibly more favorable than his performance on the road. And, then you keep Carpenter---on full rest---sitting there at for Game Three. But, as I said, we didn't even really think it was something La Russa would do.

2. After Friday's show, I came home and took a long winter's nap. I was on about three hours of sleep. I woke up, visited tommys-bookmarks.com, and then went to Twitter. I thought I was still asleep when I saw Carpenter was given the Game Two start. I have my own passionate feelings as to why this was a bad move---some of which were stated above---but most of which were captured much more eloquently by Bernie Miklasz on STLToday.com Friday afternoon HERE. Bottom line: I'm enough of a baseball nerd and Cardinal historian to know that the mix of short rest and Cardinal pitchers has been a bad one under Tony La Russa. I remember Andy Benes against the Braves in 1996. I remember Todd Stottlemyre against the Braves in 1996. I remember Darryl Kile against the Mets in 2000. And, I remember Matt Morris against the Red Sox in 2004.

Each and every one of them pitched poorly. And, with the exception of Benes, they were actually terrible.

Carpenter had never done it in his career. And, I'm sure some would say, "Well, if anyone could do it, it's Chris Carpenter."

I might have agreed with that...if it weren't for the fact that Darryl Kile wasn't able to do it. And, I think many people would tell you there were a lot of similarities between Kile's mentality and Carpenter's.

I'm not of the opinion that because it worked out it was the right move. If a moron shoves with Queen8, and I call with AceKing, and he hits three 8's, that doesn't mean he made a good move, and I made a bad one. (That hand happened to me in a tournament Saturday at Lumiere Place).

Furthermore, if you really don't think Edwin Jackson couldn't have done better than what Carpenter did, then how can you feel any optimism about Jackson on Wednesday?

I completely disagree with the move. I'm really surprised La Russa made it. And, I hope that now that it's failed five times, it will end it.

With that said, his handling of the bullpen was outstanding.

Yes...it's painful to sit through the myriad of pitching changes in the late innings, but he played the match-ups and got the right guys in there...and the bullpen killed it.

I completely disagreed with---and was surprised by---Fernando Salas coming in for the fourth. But, Salas was outstanding. I was wrong on that one, man. That's for sure.

The bullpen, as a whole, was ridiculous. They allowed one hit.

One hit?

To the Phillies?

In six innings?

Damn.

So help me...as I type this more than an hour after the game has ended...I'm in shock the Cardinals won that thing.

So happy. So surprised. Not because I feel like the Phillies are invincible. But, because of the way the game started out. They could've/should've put up many more runs earlier...just like the Cardinals left opportunities out there.

And, yeah...I do think the Phillies are the class of the National League...by a comfortable margin. But, I felt that way about the 2009 Cardinals, and we saw how that worked out. The 2006 Tigers were a better team than the 2006 Cardinals in many people's opinions, and we saw how that worked out.

Now, for the Phillies to eliminate the Cardinals, they'll have to do either win both games in St. Louis or beat Chris Carpenter---the real Chris Carpenter---in Game Five.

Of course, if the Cardinals are to eliminate the Phillies, they'll have to win both games in St. Louis or beat Roy Halladay in Game Five.

Here's what I know for certain: Busch Stadium is going to be incredible Tuesday and Wednesday. The forecast calls for perfect weather, and the place will be packed and full of energy...really, from a playoff standpoint...for the first time since 2006.

Yeah, they had a playoff game in 2009, but the Cardinals were down 2-0, and that one felt like it was just a matter of time.

This one is a 1-1 series against the best team in baseball...and the first time the Cardinals return to Busch Stadium since completing their miracle comeback and surge into the postseason.

Hamels vs. Garcia.

And, then Oswalt vs. Jackson.

Of course...if the Cardinals were to beat the Phillies Tuesday...there's a chance Manuel would start Halladay on short rest Wednesday.

I'd be all for it.

Hopefully the biggest battle the Cardinals will have this week will be their good friends...the shadows.

With 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. starts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, scoring may be at a premium. Bitching may be at an all-time high.

But, the Cardinals have dealt with it. Philadelphia has not. And, for all the big names in that lineup, as the Cardinal bullpen showed, it's not as potent as you'd think. Don't get me wrong...they're a phenomenal team. But, that offense can be shut down.

The fantasy is still alive.

Cardinals versus Brewers.

NLCS.

Carpenter vs. Nyjer Morgan.

Me and the STLToday commenters would have mutual orgasms.


Beware The Rammies...Being Blacked Out...Going Winless...Moving To Los Angeles...

I don't even know what to say.

They're bad, and they're boring.

It's a repeat of 2007, 2008, and 2009.

The Rams are irrelevant in October...once again.

Next up: at Green Bay, at Dallas, vs. New Orleans. If they're not 0-7, I'd be shocked.

Sam Bradford has no protection. When he does have time to throw, the Rams drop it.

Ryan Torain ran on the Rams like he was Adrian Peterson. That would be if Adrian Peterson didn't have a carry the first three games and then suddenly ran for 135 yards. Torain didn't touch the ball in the Redskins' first three outings, but then he ran for 7.1 yards per carry against the Rams.

The Rams' two leading wide receivers yesterday---Danario Alexander and Austin Pettis---didn't dress when the team opened the season four weeks ago. Either that means there's a monster issue with judging talent...or the receivers that were supposed to be so good that they won jobs out of the preseason are even worse than the coaches initially thought.

And, it's great to see Pettis catching passes, but why does he have a death wish with punt returns?

Lance Kendricks can't catch the ball. That's a problem when you're drafted as a pass-catching tight end in the second round.

Jason Smith can't block, and that's a problem when you're drafted as a left tackle second overall.

The team can't get out of its own way with penalties.

Listen, I was baffled by the optimism around town going into this season. Absolutely baffled. And while I might have been right on that part of it, I would've never thought they would be this fucking terrible.

From a short term perspective, I really don't know what they will do. They have a bye week, and there's an opportunity there to fire someone...perhaps just to quench the blood thirsty fans who want to see someone---anyone---lose their job for this mess.

Realistically, what's that going to do for 2011? Not that I'm against it, but it's not like we'll suddenly have interesting football the rest of the year. This thing is so far off the tracks with the wide receivers, the outside linebackers, the cornerbacks, and the incredibly expensive offensive line that this is one of the rare projects in the NFL, the only league where you can go from dogshit to glory in nine months.

I don't think the Rams are capable of that.

And, when you have that much of an issue...you have to look at who's calling the shots on personnel. The thing is...it's not as cut and dried as you'd think that that's all on Billy Devaney. Steve Spagnuolo has a major say in who's on the field.

The bottom line is Devaney and Spagnuolo didn't make as much progress as their absurdly soft schedule last year indicated. But, the seven wins gave some fans and some media a feeling of improvement. Most of this group is the same one as last year---with actual supposed improvements, if anything. And, yet here they are: 0-4.

From a long term perspective---which most of the time I'm usually more concerned about when talking Rams, because most of the time they're not even remotely in the discussion for a championship---I worry about the franchise in St. Louis...when you already had three of four seasons of irrelevance going into what appears to be another season of irrelevance.

And, that's not even getting into the legitimate, concrete issues with The Dome and the outs it gives the Rams.

Someone out there needs to "get it." And, honestly, I'm not sure who does. We've been over the football side of it. That's an obvious mess. But, on the business side of things, they have issues, and they have for awhile.

The Rams' Rules, which were put to death yesterday, are just an example of not getting it. Here's another one, from Steve Spagnuolo's opening statement in his press conference yesterday:

“First of all, I say this to preface it, we’re not into moral victories, but I do want to share with you what I said to the football team. I said that first. But there is a lot of fight in this football team and I’m very proud to be this head football coach. And I think we can hang our hat on that and I always will."


The July, August, September Girl Next Door Contest This Friday Night at HotShots...With Special Guest: Larry Nickel...Vote Now And Everyday

We'll be having our third Girl Next Door Party of the year this Friday at HotShots in Fenton. The lovely ladies from the months of July, August, and September will be competing.

We're proud to announce that Larry Nickel will be making his first appearance at an insideSTL event. We'll allow him to give us his thoughts on the ladies participating, since based on his Facebook page, Ladies Love Larry Nickel.

You can vote each day this week one time per day for your favorite insideSTL Girl Next Door. Click HERE to vote. Here's a look at the ladies competing for the $500 first prize, $250 second prize, and $100 third prize:


AMY



ASHLEY



CAITLIN



CHRISTIE


HOLLY



JAMIE



JENNY



LIBBI



MARY



MZ RACHAEL



STEPHANIE



THERESA



VERONICA

Click HERE to place your vote.


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tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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