A True Challenge Awaits

A quick quote from Dustin Pedroia, aka “The Good David Eckstein”, courtesy of mlb.com

“Everyone thought Baltimore was three easy wins and we got [beat] three times.”

I always like it when I see those little brackets in a statement by a baseball player.  It means they said something essentially unpublishable, at least on parts of the internet where old people might see it, but the quote was so important that it had to remain in the article.  I also like to imagine what really words were really there.  It was probably something like:

“Everyone thought Baltimore was three easy wins and we got our asses kicked three times.”

But I prefer to think it was actually a long winded, Aristocrats-style description of the recent Red Sox futility that would make even Ichiro at the all-star game blush.  A length metaphor involving handcuffs, a tub of vegetable oil, a deck chair, a zebra, and Jonathan Papelbon’s entire immediate family.  If they’re just going to edit the quote anyway, why not get a little bit more specific?

That’s not why I started with that quote.  I started with that quote because I think it represents a bad attitude.  One of the amazing things about baseball is that anyone can win a series.  Not everyone can win the World Series, because the Cubs, but in a three game set, even a terrible team can beat a good one.  There are no easy wins, and throwing that out there is just being a sore loser.

This is all an incredibly long-winded caveat to what I really want to say, which is that the Cardinals’ first big test starts tonight in Philadelphia.  That is not to say that this season so far has been full of “easy wins” or that the teams they faced weren’t a challenge.  But this series is one that threatens to reveal the soft, meaty underbelly of the Cardinals success so far.

The Phillies are probably the best team in the NL.  They’ve got a big lineup in a little ballpark, and that’s not going to bode well for a starting rotation that has been exceptionally lucky.  Right now the team ERA is 2.56.  I don’t want to say they’ve been doing it with smoke and mirrors, but there’s certainly been some sleight of hand involved.

Jaime Garcia, tonight’s starter, has a .221 BAbip on the year.  That’s not quite “J.A. Happ with runners in scoring position” lucky (.173 for his career dear god) but its not sustainable.  Penny, who goes on Wednesday, hasn’t given up a single HR yet.  That probably won’t be true on Thursday.

Speaking of Thursday, the match-up looks to be Kyle Lohse versus Roy Halladay.  That’s the kind of game only true fans watch.

When the pitching craters–or at least comes back down to Earth–the offense has to be there to pick it up.  Outside of David Freese hitting above his pay grade lately and Pujols being Pujols,  it just hasn’t been there.  That’s gotta change, and I’m looking to Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick or Citizens Bank Park to help us change that.

On the subject of Pujols?  Yeah, he’s striking out a lot.  But can we at least lay off the worrying and fretting until he’s his OPS (1.080) falls below his career OPS (10.55)?

Oh no!  He’s only hitting slightly better than his historically-significant-as-the-best-for-a-right-handed-hitter OPS!  He’s missing more pitches he must be broken!  Sound the alarm!

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