Jim & Bob's Palatial Baseball Blog

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Padres vs. Cardinals: Wings And Prayers

In 2005, the Cardinals and Padres met in the first round. The Cardinals were 100-game winners in the regular season, while the Padres barely crept over .500 and had about as much business in the MLB playoffs as the Bad News Bears. The results were as expected.

In 2006, things are a bit reversed. While the Padres final record of 88-74 isn't exactly that of a juggernaught, they played very well down the stretch and come into the postseason in the best shape they've been in all year. The Cardinals, on the other hand, came close to blowing a big lead in the final two weeks and frankly are a very mediocre team being carried on the backs of two or three outstanding players.

The matchups don't seem too favorable for the Cardinals, either. The top three hitters in the Padres lineup are the keys to success with their strong ability to get on base. All three are lefthanded hitters, but the Cardinals have no lefthanded starters to counter them with. Instead, the Cardinals will be giving a start to Jeff Weaver, who is almost helpless against lefthanded hitters, who lit him up for a .340 batting average with 22 homers this season. Lefties also batted .304 against game three starter Jeff Suppan, and game four pitcher Anthony Reyes had his struggles against them as well.

While the Cardinals are struggling to put together a competent rotation behind the excellent Chris Carpenter, the Padres rotation has excelled throughout August and September. Jake Peavy (2.64 ERA for August/September), David Wells (3.03), Chris Young (3.23), and Woodie Williams (3.62) are probably the most solid foursome of any playoff team.

Unless somelike like Juan Encarnacion or Ronnie Belliard just goes completely off his head, or Jim Edmonds is a lot healthier than he's appeared to be, the Cardinals must pin all of their hopes on Albert Pujols and Carpenter. It's certainly not impossible for someone like Pujols to carry a team through a short series, but it's just as likely that Bruce Bochy will just pitch around him in any crucial situation.

In keeping with our policy, we're not making any prediction here. But I will say this; I really like the Padres chances to reach the World Series.

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