Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't be surprised

Here I come again with my negative anxiety, so let me just be clear that the Phillies, their monster starting rotation and a pocket full of Pence should take care of the Cardinals in the Division Series, in three or four games.

Now that the should is out of the way, I simply want this post to be a reality check for all those fans who saw their team cruise through a 102-win season, and expect to see that parade through Center City. It's now October and a sample size of 42 years (since MLB did away with a single division in each league) tells us that every team that reaches the postseason has an equal chance of winning it all.

For the Phillies, the opening round might present a bigger challenge than any possible matchups further in. The Cardinals are a scary bunch.

Their offense produced better than any in the National League and got the best of Philly pitching more than once. St. Louis' 6-3 advantage in the regular-season series is also a cause for concern.

But what scares me most of all? The Phillies absolutely cannot hit Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, the projected starters for Games 2 and 3.

Since last season, the pair of hurlers have combined for 5-0 record and an unbelievable ERA of 0.88 in eight starts against the Phils. There wasn't a single poor or even mediocre outing in that stretch. I'm sorry to say that's the reason I was kind of hoping the Braves would win on Wednesday. We've proven on more than one occasion that we can beat Atlanta, in both blowouts and squeakers.

Cardinal manager Tony LaRussa must have also seen the numbers, explaining why he set up his rotation the way he did. However, it could work out in Philadelphia's favor.

Carpenter will pitch on Sunday on just three day's rest. I don't have any stats on his effectiveness in that situation because he's never done it before in his major league career. It's quite a gamble, but it's the smart move for the Cardinals. My guess is, an unflappable veteran like Carpenter will still throw his game.

If that's the case, the Phillies absolutely need to win Game 1 tonight. You know Doc will deliver his best, and though Kyle Lohse has enjoyed a solid year, he doesn't silence the Philly bats like Carpenter and Garcia. Losing to one of them won't be so bad if the Phillies are already up a game.

Then again, our guys could sweep, or they could get swept. That's the randomness of the playoffs. As always, I go in cautiously optimistic, and I can't wait for another awesome year of October baseball.

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