Tag:Matt Holliday
Posted on: October 13, 2011 6:50 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Berkman, Hart sit due to matchups

Lance Berkman

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Lance Berkman won the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award, but if he gets a chance to show why in Game 4 of the NLCS, it'll be in the late innings as a sub.

"Guys are kidding me, his reward for the award was a spot on the bench, so they were giving him a hard time," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. 

It's not just Berkman getting shown the seat for Game 4 -- the Brewers are also going with a different right fielder, sitting Corey Hart in favor of Mark Kotsay.

NLCS Coverage

Both Berkman and Hart have had trouble with the starting pitchers, Randy Wolf and Kyle Lohse, respectively. Berkman is just 3 for 32 lifetime against Wolf and Hart is 2 for 17 against Lohse.

While those aren't the largest sample sizes, Berkman said it's enough for him to understand the move by La Russa.

"I think off of an individual pitcher, once you get 15 at-bats, you probably have a decent idea about -- and even if the numbers are not -- don't tell the whole story, at least personally, you know how you feel when you go up there, like whether you feel like -- I can see the ball fine, and I've lined out eight times, and I haven't gotten any; or, if it's, man, I've got no chance and I've really struggled, this guy, he's just got my number or whatever," Berkman said. "You can tell that as a hitter pretty quickly; I would say as many as 10 at-bats, or as few as 10 at-bats I should say. Certainly I think when you compile 15 or 20 at-bats against a guy, you can have a decent idea. And again, none of this is hard and fast. I mean, heck, if I had started tonight, I might have gotten three hits. You just don't know. But, being a game of percentages and playing percentages, I think that -- I mean, I have 30 at-bats against Wolf, so I think that's plenty to figure out that I don't hit him very well at all."

Berkman is also slightly hobbled after getting hit by a pitch Wednesday night in the leg.

With Berkman out, La Russa moved David Freese up from seventh in the lineup to fourth and moved Matt Holliday back to fifth. Holliday has just two extra-base hits in his last 53 at-bats. In Berkman's spot in right field is Allen Craig, batting second. Craig's not exactly been a world-beater against Wolf either. Craig is 1 for 15 lifetime against Wolf and 0 for 12 this season.

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told Hart after Wednesday night's game that he'd be sitting him for Game 4.

"Just Corey's scuffling lately, and he scuffled against Lohse," Roenicke said. "So I talked to him last night after the game, and it sounded like putting Kotsay out there was a good way to go about it."

Kotsay is just 1 for 13 against Lohse. But Kotsay did have a home run Wednesday night and walk twice, while Hart is 1 for 12 in the NLCS and 6 for 33 in the playoffs. But Roenicke did say he'll be ready to use Hart as a pinch hitter if needed.

"it's really nice for me knowing that Corey Hart is on the bench as a pinch hitter," Roenicke said. "He's dangerous. They can't bring in a right-hander to face him because they think it's going to bother Corey."

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 3:14 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 4:11 pm
 

NLCS Game 4: Starters looking for better results



By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Oct. 13, Busch Stadium. Cardinals lead series 2-1.

The fate of the Brewers is in the hands of Randy Wolf and a playoff-rattled Zack Greinke. That's not the most encouraging sign. Add to the fact the Cardinals need to win two more games to close the series out and the next two games are at Busch Stadium… let's just say if you're a Brewer, things are not looking good.

Milwaukee has yet to win a playoff road game, losing all  three postseason games away from Miller Park, including Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Game 3 will feature Wolf against St. Louis' Kyle Lohse.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

 

It's not as clear cut as anyone who saw Wolf's National League division series start at Arizona would think. As bad as the left-hander was in Arizona (seven runs in three innings), he's been decent against the Cardinals, especially in St. Louis. This season he was 3-2 with a 5.34 ERA against the Cardinals and 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in three starts at Busch Stadium, where he is 4-4 with a 3.50 ERA in his career.

NLCS Coverage

The Cardinals' big boppers don't exactly have the best track record against Wolf -- Lance Berkman is 3 for 32 lifetime (.094) against Wolf, striking out seven times and with no homers. Matt Holliday is hitting just .216 (8 for 37) with one homer off of Wolf and Albert Pujols is hitting a rather pedestrian (for Pujols) /286/.306/.571 against Wolf, but has driven in 13. Rafael Furcal, who has been so important to starting off the Cardinals' offense, has just a .241 on-base percentage in his career against Wolf. So there is some reason for a shred of optimism.

And then there's Lohse, who has battled inconsistency his entire career. Lohse had a career-best 3.39 ERA and led the team with a 14 victories in 2012, but he struggled in his only postseason start so far, allowing six runs (five earned) in 5 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the NLDS. There's a reason he hasn't pitched since then -- and that's because despite his numbers (and contract), he's still the team's fourth-best starter. 

Lohse made three starts against the Brewers and pitched well, but had a 1-2 record despite a 2.37 ERA. Four of the five runs he allowed to the Brewers this season came in a June 10 loss at Miller Park. In his two starts against the Brewers at Busch Stadium, he allowed just one run on 10 hits in 14 innings, splitting those decisions.

Brewers' Randy Wolf: Wolf was hoping his 2011 wouldn't end on his disastrous Game 4 start in Arizona.

"I think the biggest thing that I felt when we won Game 5 against the Diamondbacks was relief, because if I would have left the season -- that would have been my last start and it would have been a hard offseason for me," Wolf said. "I wanted to give (Yovani Gallardo) a kiss, because just to have that opportunity to pitch again was a very big deal for me. Regardless of what happens, I just wanted that opportunity again."

In that outing, he said he couldn't control anything but his fastball, which meant he was either getting behind or leaving his offspeed pitches over the plate to get hammered.

"When you're 2-0, 3-1 on hitters that are swinging the bats well, you're basically fighting an uphill battle," Wolf said. "You  know, I learned that there's some way that I have to find my feel out there. I have to find a way to throw pitches for strikes and figure out early -- I was very stubborn with my curveball the last game. I kept on throwing it and it got me behind in a lot of counts. So I have to find out early what I'm going to throw for strikes, and after I do that, the first two or three innings, then you can figure out what other pitches you can go to."

Cardinals' Kyle Lohse: Lohse hasn't pitched the first day of the month when he lost to the Phillies in Game 1 of the NLDS, but said it's been nothing new to him.

"During the second half, I had a couple of layoffs like that where actually I think right before my last start against Milwaukee, I had about 11 or 12 days off," Lohse said. "This time was a little different. I didn't have time to do two sides or anything, because I was available in the bullpen during that Philadelphia series and never threw. But I've just tried to stay sharp, throwing flat grounds. I had my regular bullpen session the other day, felt good."

Lohse's memory is a little off -- he had seven days between his Aug. 28 start in St. Louis against the Phillies and his Sept. 6 against the Brewers at Busch Stadium. However, he did have success, that part he remembered correctly, allowing just four hits in six shutout innings.  He also had one stretch of 10 days of rest that straddled the All-Star break, and allowed four runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 against the Mets in a Cardinals loss on July 19.

LINEUPS

Brewers Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Nyjer Morgan CF 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Mark Kotsay RF 2 Allen Craig RF
3 Ryan Braun LF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Prince Fielder 1B 4 David Freese 3B
5 Rickie Weeks 2B 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS 7 Ryan Theriot 2B
8 George Kottaras C 8 Jon Jay CF
9 Randy Wolf LHP 9 Kyle Lohse RHP

NOTES

  • Although rain was expected in St. Louis on Thursday, it's supposed to be out of the area by game time. Rain fell during some of Game 3, but there were no delays. 
  • Watch out for the Cardinals in their first inning -- St. Louis has scored in the first inning in each of its last five games this postseason and six of the eight total games in the playoffs. Wolf has an ERA of 6.00 in the first inning this season and gave up five runs in the first inning in his NLDS Game 4 start. The Cardinals are the first team to score in the first inning of five straight postseason games since the 2004 Red Sox.
  • Cardinals third baseman David Freese didn't have a hit in the Cardinals' first game of the postseason, a loss to the Phillies. He's hit safely in each game since. He's hitting .407 with four doubles, three homers and 11 RBI over that streak.
  • The Brewers are 3-11 all-time in postseason road games, including 0-3 this season. 
  • Mark Kotsay's third-inning homer in Game 3 was his second postseason homer, but his first to go over the fence. He hit an inside-the-park home run for Oakland at MInnesota in the 2006 ALDS.
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Posted on: October 13, 2011 2:07 am
Edited on: October 13, 2011 2:10 am
 

Overheard: NLCS Game 3

Albert Pujols

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke has repeatedly said he doesn't like to intentionally walk batters -- but he ordered three free passes in Wednesday's 4-3 Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, two to Albert Pujols. All three worked.

"I think when it really makes sense, we'll do it. I don't want to just put him on to put him on. You saw we put him on with a guy on third base. Next thing you know, it's second and third instead of first and third. They get a base hit there, they are scoring two runs instead of just one," Roenicke said. "We are going to pick our spots where we think we need to do it. If it comes up, you know, where it makes sense, then we'll try to put him on. But you know, he's scary when he's hitting everything, and we make good pitches and he's still hitting them. He's done a lot of damage to us."

Pujols had hits in both at-bats in which the Brewers threw to him.

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman was asked if he would pitch to Pujols right now: "Maybe. It would just depend on match ups. I don't think anybody thinks as highly as I do in terms of where he ranks in the history of the game, I think he's probably the greatest hitter ever -- doing it in this ballpark and in this era. It's a worldwide game, you have players from all over everywhere," he said. "That being said, I'm having a hard time walking anybody to get to Matt Holliday. This guy's won a batting title, he's been an LCS MVP. So, you might get him a couple of times, but you better be careful, because if you keep doing it, he's going to make you pay."

Holliday was 0 for 3, so he didn't. He has three hits in the series, but all three have been singles. 

Other things overheard after Game 3:

• Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter on Albert Pujols: "I was very fortunate to watch this guy play of rate last nine years. And when you are that type of player at that level, the expectations from you, me, I'm sure his family, his kids' friends, I mean, anybody that's out there, the expectation levee for what he's supposed to do is unbelievable. That being said, he continues to amaze me every single year. Every year, you can't believe the things that he does, the games that he has, the pressures that he deal with, distractions that he deals with.

"Coming int this season, free agent, how much money he is going to get, best player in baseball, is he going be here? Is he not going to be here? And he comes in, just like the same old Albert, and works hard in spring training, starts off a little slow, everybody is questioning whether or not it's because of his contract situation. No, he continues to grind, he continues to play and continues to do the things that amazes every single one of us every single day. So what he's doing now, does that -- it's him. That's who he is. He's an exceptional player, exceptional hitter. He's got the mind of stone. Nothing bothers him no matter what the situation he's in -- and that's what makes him great."

• Brewers infielder Craig Counsell on the Cardinals bullpen: "They've struggled with their bullpen, but they've got guys in the roles they want them in now. They've turned the corner."

• Mark Kotsay on Chris Carpenter: "He didn't have a feel for his curveball. He left some pitches on the plate that we took advantage of. But he made his pitches when he had to, got out of a couple of jams ... it was interesting that Tony took him out there with the pitcher's spot coming up in the fifth, but Tony (La Russa) obviously knows Carp, he knows his bullpen and he did a great job."

• Cardinals third baseman, and Missouri native, David Freese on Stan Musial's pre game appearance: "It's unreal. Every time Stan Musial comes around the clubhouse, we take time to go say hi to him. And when he gets on the field, whether it's tonight or opening day, all of the guys that are in the Hall come out and join him. It's just special to be a part of."

• Carpenter on Octavio Dotel and Arhtur Rhodes: "I think Doti and Arthur have brought a lot of confidence to some of these younger guys to not care; to go out, not be concerned about what's going to happen. Let's go out and give it our best and see what happens. If it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't, and we'll go get 'em the next day."

• Tony La Russa on Yovani Gallardo: "He's got all of the pitches. We got him before he got sharp, but he's the real deal and he showed it. We had a couple of great chances to add, which normally come back to haunt you, but our pitching staff prevented that. But let me tell you, he's a handful, and he's every bit as good as a No. 1 starter is supposed to be."

• Gallardo on his start: "I think I was off the whole game, to be honest with you, even after the first. The four innings after that, I was struggling putting the ball where I wanted to."

He was then asked if it was any pitch in particular: "A little bit with every pitch. I'd hit my spot, and then the next one would be up in the zone, or not even close."

Corey Hart on the Freese double in the first inning: "It just kind of carried off, but I still had to go after it. I knew I was close to the track. It was like his home run [in Game 2] the other day, it just kept going. He's a strong kid."

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Posted on: October 10, 2011 2:20 am
Edited on: October 10, 2011 4:47 pm
 

NLCS Game 2: Miller Time is good to Brewers



By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- It's been beat into the ground by this time in the playoffs, but it's only because it's held true -- every game at Miller Park is crucial to the Brewers, who held baseball's best home record and struggled on the road this season. So far, the Miller Park faithful has seen four postseason victories and no losses. The Brewers also lost both of their road games in Arizona in the first round, furthering the storyline.

Sunday, the Brewers came back from an early deficit to beat the Cardinals, giving Milwaukee the early lead in the series and keeping the momentum alive at home.

NLCS

"The atmosphere here is something that we really feed off of, I think it's one o fate big reasons we've been so successful here at home," Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun said. "Obviously the fans are very passionate. And they're excited. I think they're enjoying it as much as we are, playing meaningful baseball games on Oct. 10. And they're embracing the opportunity, just like we are, and trying to make the most of it."

For St. Louis, getting a win in Milwaukee would mean a chance at clinching a trip to the World Series at home. For a team that came back from 8 1/2 games in the wild card in the last three-and-half weeks of the season and lost the first game of the NL division series, St. Louis is used to performing under pressure.

"Just look at how we've played over the last six weeks -- we've lost some tough games and bounced back, we did it against Philly, we did it in the last two weeks of the season when we needed wins, we're too good of a ball club," St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols said. "This is too long of a series  and whoever wins four games is going to the World Series. Just because they won one game -- you can go to the (Brewers) side and ask them -- it's not over."

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Cardinals' Edwin Jackson: The right-hander's last outing came in Game 4 of the NLDS with the Cardinals facing elimination and he rebounded from giving up two first-inning runs, he allowed just three more base runners in his six innings as St. Louis forced a Game 5 with a victory over Roy Oswalt and the Cardinals. 

The start was Jackson's first postseason start of his career, but not his first appearance, having pitched in three games of the 2008 postseason with the Rays. The oft-traded Jackson has gone 5-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 12 starts and 13 games since coming to the Cardinals, and take out one start and his ERA's down to 2.92. But there's the rub -- that one start you'd need to take out was against the Brewers, at Mlller Park. In just his second start for the Cardinals, Jackson surrendered 10 runs (but just eight earned) in seven innings on 14 hits. The Brewers tagged him for four homers -- three by Casey McGehee and one from Corey Hart to lead off the first inning. 

On Sunday, Jackson was asked about that start -- "What start? It's that simple. I mean, I'm a competitor. I mean, I can take my beatings and I can handle that. It's not my first one and it probably won't be my last."

Jackson followed that start with another against the Brewers -- losing but in better fashion, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits in six innings on Aug. 9. In his next start in Milwaukee he allowed just one run in seven innings, earning the win.

Brewers' Shaun Marcum: The Brewer right-hander wasn't able to get through the fifth inning in his one start in the NLDS, going up seven runs in just 4 2/3 innings in Game 3. During the season, he flashed moments of brilliance, but also struggled -- evening out to a 13-7 record with a 3.54 ERA.

Marcum's Game 3 start will best be remembered for his flip of his glove after giving up a grand slam to Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

"I didn't really see the replay, and I didn't realize I did it until afterwards," Marcum said. "I was like, what the heck did I just do? It reminded me of Ted Lilly a couple of years ago in Arizona, but he slammed his glove down on the ground. It's just a reaction thing. Definitely I didn't realize I did it until afterwards."

Like just about every other pitcher in this series, he's seen plenty of his NLCS opponents -- facing the Cardinals three times in August, going 0-1 with a 4.26 ERA in those three starts and 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA in four total starts against St. Louis.

"They know what I'm going to do; I know what approach they're going to take for me," Marcum said. "For me it's a matter of going out and locating, keeping the ball down. I do know what they're going to try to do. They know what they're going to try to do against me. We're going to go back and forth."

Starting pitching advantage for Game 2:

Both starters are so unpredictable that it's hard to give anyone an edge -- it depends on the night.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Nyjer Morgan CF
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Lance Berkman RF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
7 David Freese 3B 7 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Edwin Jackson RHP 9 Shaun Marcum RHP

NOTES

  • With his 62nd postseason game in a Cardinals' uniform, Albert Pujols passed Jim Edmonds for most in franchise history. With his single in the first inning, Pujols has now hit safely in 21 of the 26 LCS games in his career, hitting .354 (34 for 96) in the LCS with eight homers and 18 RBI.
  • Based on history, the Brewers' victory in Game 1 puts them in the driver's seat -- in the last 19 NLCS, winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series 16 times (84.2 percent).
  • Rafael Furcal hsas a hit in each of the nine games he's played at Miller Park this season, with eight of those coming as a Cardinal. He's hitting .323 (10 for 31) here this season and .295 (26 for 88) in his career.
  • Despite the Brewers' prodigious power, Sunday was just the second time in team history Milwaukee hit multiple homers in one playoff game. The only other time came exactly 30 years before, when Pal Molitor and Ted Simmons hit home runs against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 9, 1981. It was the 37th time Braun and Fielder homered in the same game.
  • Marcum may not have the most success with the Cardinals this season, but he has had success against Pujols and Lance Berkman. Berkman is just 1 for 15 in his career against Marcum and Pujols is 1 for 9.
  • Likewise, Jackson's been good against Braun and Fielder. Braun is 2 for 12 against Jackson and Fielder is 2 for 13. McGehee's three homers are his only three hits against Jackson in his career.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 8:27 pm
 

Gomez in, Morgan out for Game 1 of NLCS

Carlos Gomez

By C. Trent Rosecrans


Nyjer Morgan was the hero of the game that got the Brewers to the National League Championship Series, but he's not in the Game 1 lineup against Cardinals lefty Jaime Garcia. Morgan and Gomez have platooned this season, with Gomez getting the start against left-handed pitchers.

However, Gomez was moved up in the batting order from his usual eighth to seventh in hopes of utilizing his speed more.

"I think it allows Gomey to do some more things when he's on base versus in the eighth spot," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "Sometimes you can't run as much. It frees up Gomey a little bit."

The Cardinals are keeping their lineup more or less intact, although that could change at the leadoff spot when Milwaukee uses lefty Randy Wolf. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he may flip-flop Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday against Wolf -- but he may not.

"I don't think there's a big difference," La Russa said. "Berk's been in there every day. As long as you've got Yadi, you've got protection and he's one of the toughst hitters on our club."

Cardinals Brewers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Corey Hart RF
2 Jon Jay CF 2 Jerry Hairston Jr. 3B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Ryan Braun LF
4 Lance Berkman RF 4 Prince Fielder 1B
5 Matt Holliday LF 5 Rickie Weeks 2B
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Yuniesky Betancourt SS
7 David Freese 3B 7 Carlos Gomez CF
8 Ryan Theriot 2B 8 Jonathan Lucroy C
9 Jaime Garcia LHP 9 Zack Greinke RHP

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Pictured: Carlos Gomez
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:24 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 2:17 am
 

Cardinals vs. Brewers NLCS preview

NLCS

By C. Trent Rosecrans

MILWAUKEE -- The National League Central is often overlooked or looked down upon -- but not this year, as the NL Central champs have to fight off their divisional rival with the winner headed to the World Series. What makes this matchup even more fun is that these two clubs don't like each other one bit.

There was a dust up late in the season between Milwaukee's Nyjer Morgan and the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter. There was also an accusation by the Cardinals that the Brewers were using different graphics on the Miller Park scoreboards to create an advantage while the Cardinals were batting. And even Saturday, Zack Greinke got the ball rolling by making comments about Carpenter, which got Cardinals manager Tony La Russa upset.

It's a contrast in style -- if only in the surface style. The Brewers are young, brash and loud. The Cardinals sit on their porch and tell them to get off their lawn.

On the field, both teams have some impressive individual pitchers, but got to the playoffs on the strength of their bats. While the Brewers won the National League Central, the two teams split their 18-game series during the regular season. While it won't bring in the ratings like some bigger markets might, it should appeal to true baseball fans.

TEAM INFORMATION

St. Louis Cardinals (host games 3, 4, 5*)
90-72, NL wild card winner
ALDS
: Defeated Phillies in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Phillies-Cardinals
Manager
: Tony La Russa
Regular-season batting statistics: .273 batting average (1st in NL), .341 on-base percentage (1st), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.78 ERA (8th), 1.31 WHIP (10th), 2.45 K/BB (5th)
Star player: 1B Albert Pujols -- .299/.366/.541, 651 plate appearances, 37 HR 99 RBI

Miwaukee Brewers (host games 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
96-66, NL Central champions
ALDS
: Defeated Diamondbacks in 5 games -- View coverage of NLDS Brewers-Diamondbacks
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Regular-season batting statistics: .261 batting average (3rd), .325 on-base percentage (5th), .425 slugging percentage (1st)
Regular-season pitching statistics: 3.63 ERA (7th), 1.24 WHIP (3rd), 2.86 K/BB (2nd)
Star player: LF Ryan Braun -- .332/.397/.597, 629 plate appearances, 33 HR, 111 RBI

*if necessary

WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Let's break each position down and see which team has the edge…

Catcher: Yadier Molina vs. Jonathan Lucroy
 
Perhaps the best defensive catcher in the game also hit .305/.349/.465 this season … that's Molina if you weren't sure, or weren't watching Game 5 of the NLDS when he threw out Chase Utley at second. Molina seemingly does it all. Lucroy may be best known as the "guy who can't really hit," even if he hit a pretty respectable .265/.313/.391 with 12 homers.

First base: Albert Pujols vs. Prince Fielder
 

You want to talk about a heavyweight battle? You have perhaps baseball's best player versus a guy who had an MVP-worthy season. You also have two of the offseason's premier free agents. Fielder's 27, so who knows exactly who is going to get the bigger contract between him and the 31-year-old Pujols, but there's no question as to who is the better all-around player. Pujols is not only the most feared hitter in the league, he's also a guy who can beat you with his glove and his base running in addition to his bat.

Second base: Ryan Theriot vs. Rickie Weeks
 

Theriot's a much better second baseman than he his shortstop, so the good news is that he's at second base, although he's still not exactly a Gold Glover -- of course, neither is Weeks. Both garner their value with their bats, not their gloves. When healthy, Weeks is probably the better player. But he hasn't looked healthy and he was just 1 for 18 in the NLDS against the Cardinals. At the beginning of the year, this was an easy choice. Today it is, too, but it's the other way.

Shortstop: Rafael Furcal vs. Yuniesky Betancourt
 

Once the Cardinals got Furcal from the Dodgers and he returned healthy, the Cardinals were a much better team. St. Louis has gone 30-20 in games which Furcal has played. Even though his stats are a less-than-impressive .255/.316/.418 with the Cardinals, the threat he brings at the top of the lineup coupled with how much he improves the team's defense, St. Louis is better because of him. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop.

Third base: David Freese vs. Jerry Hairston Jr.
 

Freese may be one of the more underrated players the Cardinals have. While we all know about Pujols and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman and even the likes of Molina and Theriot, Freese is a guy you have to watch in that lineup. He hit .297/.350/.441 this season, but injuries have been a problem in his career. When healthy, he's a vital part of the the team's offense after the big boppers. Hairston is a journeyman utility player -- and those are great to have. He's a fantastic role player that has been in some winning situations the last few years, but there's a reason he's moved around both on the field and to different clubhouses. He's always in demand, but he's no longer an everyday player.

Left field: Matt Holliday vs. Ryan Braun
 

If the first base matchup weren't so good, this one would be getting the headlines. Braun would be my choice for the MVP in the National League, and Holliday is one of the more underrated players in the game. Cardinals fans love to hate the guy because of what he hasn't done, while ignoring the production he has put up in a Cardinals uniform. The guy is an absolute monster. However, he's hurt right now -- and like the Theriot vs. Weeks argument, that looms large in this matchup.

Center field: John Jay vs. Nyjer Morgan/Chris Gomez
 

Morgan's the hot name right now for his outrageous and engaging personality. His Game 5 heroics even overshadowed the fact that he hit .188 in the NLDS. As bad as that is, it was better than Jay's .162. Morgan brings enough to the team to give Milwaukee the slight edge. 

Right field: Lance Berkman vs. Corey Hart
 

Hart's another one of those players who gets lost among all the other good players in this series. He hit .285/.356/.510 with 26 homers this season, much of it out of the leadoff spot. But as good of a season as he's had, it pales in comparison to the season Berkman put together. A year after it seemed like he had nothing left in the tank, he was refueled with premium, hitting .301/.412/.547 with 31 homers.

Starting pitching: Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse vs. Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Randy Wolf
 

Both teams needed to use their best playoff pitchers on Friday, meaning the Game 3 matchup in St. Louis of Carpenter-Gallardo should be a good one. Garcia's been a different pitcher on the road (the 3.33 ERA vs. 2.92 isn't so bad, but batters are hitting a robust .313 against him away from Busch Stadium and .230 in the shadow of the arch). Lohse and Wolf are wild cards, while Greinke should pitch better than he did against the Diamondbacks. Both have their solid points and their question marks. In the end, it may be too close to call.

Relief pitching: Jason Motte and co. vs. John Axford and co.
 

Give credit to Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak for going out and improving the team's bullpen at the break. For much of the season, the bullpen was a weak point, but Mozeliak strengthened it during the season and the bullpen has become a strength. Milwaukee also went out and made a bold move for a setup man, picking up Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have to feel good when their manager goes out to the mound to make a change.

Defense
 

Neither team is going to put on a clinic, but the addition of Furcal has improved St. Louis' defense to the acceptable level. Almost. With Pujols and Furcal they have players who can field the ball, so there's that. The Brewers have Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop

PREDICTION

While these may not be the two best teams in the National Leauge, they certainly make for an intriguing matchup. No matter how many times each team says its letting bygones be bygones, they don't really like each other -- and the national spotlight could turn up the heat. The two teams split their 18-game season series, with each team going 5-4 on their home field. The way the Brewers play at home, they could be tough to beat here. In the end, I see it going the distance and the fact that four of the games are at Miller Park being the biggest difference. Brewers in 7.


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Posted on: October 6, 2011 7:54 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 5:13 pm
 

NLDS Game 5: Halladay, Carpenter square off

Halladay, Carpenter

By Evan Brunell

Cardinals vs. Phillies, Citizen's Bank Ballpark, 8:37 p.m. ET on TBS

When the playoffs began, no one gave the Cardinals a shot. Really, no one.

Not one of CBSSports.com's baseball experts picked St. Louis to advance, and only Danny Knobler thought it would go the maximum five games. And yet, here we are, Game 5 in Philadelphia with Roy Halladay going up against Chris Carpenter. The Phillies are still the more vaunted team but when it comes down to one game, anything goes. The Cardinals already took a game in Philadelphia, so they don't have the bugaboo of having to play in Citizen's Bank Park. Add in a rather convincing win on Wednesday, in which Philadelphia didn't score after the first, and one has to think the Cardinals just might have the upper hand heading into Thursday's game.

One problem with that, though: Halladay. The right-hander may or may not win the NL Cy Young Award this year if Clayton Kershaw has anything to say about it, but either way, he had a Cy Young-caliber season and already has two of these trophies to his name. On paper, it's a drastic mismatch against a former Cy Young Award winner himself in Carp, who took home the award in 2005. Both Carpenter and Halladay are ex-Blue Jays teammates, which makes the matchup that much sweeter.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Phillies
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Jimmy Rollins SS
2 Skip Schumaker CF 2 Chase Utley 2B
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Hunter Pence RF
4 Lance Berkman RF 4 Ryan Howard 1B
5 Matt Holliday LF 5 Shane Victorino CF
6 Yadier Molina C 6 Raul Ibanez LF
7 David Freese 3B 7 Placido Polanco 3B
8 Nick Punto 2B 8 Carlos Ruiz C
9 Chris Carpenter RHP 9 Roy Halladay RHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Carpenter vs. Phillies: Carpenter blew up against Philadelphia in Game 2, going on three-days rest although St. Louis eventually won the game. Going just three innings, Carpenter coughed up four runs on five hits and also walked an uncharacteristic, struggling with the strike zone. That was the game Tony La Russa complained on national TV about the zone despite no evidence toward the umpire displaying prejudice to St. Louis. The extra day of rest could help Carpenter return to his dominating ways, as he gave up just one run in two starts against the Phillies in the regular season. Chase Utley is 7 for 15 in his career against Carpenter, and Ryan Howard is 3-for-11 with a home run.

Halladay vs. Cardinals: Halladay coughed up three runs in Game 1, all coming in the first inning on a three-run home run by Lance Berkman -- the second straight time Berkman homered off Halladay in the first inning. In the regular season, Halladay registered a 3.21 ERA, losing in September after surrendering four runs.  Including Game 1, Albert Pujols is just 3 for 14. Skip Schumaker, who collected two hits in Game 1, has a .364 batting average against the right-hander in 12 plate appearances. 

 NLDS Game 5

NOTES

  • Matt Holliday finally made his first start of the postseason in Game 4 and is expected to start again in Game 5.
  • Cliff Lee volunteered to be available in the bullpen if needed, but its doubtful Charlie Manuel will use him. The Phils have a capable bullpen, but never say never -- it is Lee's throw day, so it could happen.
  • The Cardinals and Phillies will be playing the second Game 5 of the LDS, with the Yankees and Tigers playing the first on Thursday night. Arizona and Milwaukee are also slated to play a Game 5 later Friday, giving the 2011 season three Game 5s in the LDS. From 2004 to 2011, there were just two Game 5s total.
  • The forecast is currently projected to be 51 degrees at nighttime with no chance of rain and minimal wind.

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Posted on: October 5, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: October 5, 2011 5:02 pm
 

NLDS Game 4: Holliday in lineup

Holliday

By Evan Brunell


Phillies at Cardinals, 6:07 p.m. ET, Busch Stadium

The long national nightmare is over: Matt Holliday is in the lineup for the Cardinals, as CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler writes on site.

Phillies Cardinals
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Jimmy Rollins SS 1 Rafael Furcal SS
2 Chase Utley 2B 2 Skip Schumaker 2B
3 Hunter Pence RF 3 Albert Pujols 1B
4 Ryan Howard 1B 4 Lance Berkman RF
5 Shane Victorino CF 5 Matt Holliday LF
6 Raul Ibanez LF 6 Yadier Molina C
7 Placido Polanco 3B 7 David Freese 3B
8 Carlos Ruiz C 8 Jon Jay CF
9 Roy Oswalt RHP 9 Edwin Jackson RHP

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Oswalt vs. Cardinals: Oswalt has seen the Cardinals plenty, spending 10 years in Houston. He has 197 2/3 innings of history against St. Louis, posting up a 3.19 ERA. He made three starts against the Redbirds in 2011, with a eerie 3.21 ERA, very similar to his career marks. In those three games, Yadier Molina went 4-for 5 and Lance Berkman 3-for-5. Jon Jay is the lone Cardinal to have hit a homer off Oswalt this season, but over his career (and counting the postseason), Albert Pujols has seven homers in 102 plate appearances. Rafael Furcal and Molina also hit Oswalt well historically.

Jackson vs. Phillies: Jackson has bounced from team to team the last few seasons, but has only faced the Phillies once in the regular season, giving up five runs in five innings back on July 28, 2010 while with the Diamondbacks. Over Jackson's career and including the postseason, Raul Ibanez has faced Jackson the most, seeing him nine times and collecting two hits and walks apiece. Only Joe Blanton -- a long reliever for Philadelphia in October -- has gone deep against Jackson. There's no question the Phillies have minimal experience against Jackson, which could work in the right-hander's favor.

NOTES

Full Playoff Coverage
  • Get a load of this statistic, brought to you by the Associated Press: "Placido Polanco singled in the ninth [inning of Game 3], ending a 0-for-29 slump against St. Louis in the postseason. He was 0 for 17 with Detroit in the 2006 World Series."
  • Roy Oswalt is undefeated in the postseason, running up a 5-0 record. Win-loss records mean absolutely nothing when evaluating how good a pitcher is, but it's a nice little narrative. His ERA in the postseason is 3.25.
  • Edwin Jackson has never started in the playoffs but did relieve in the 2008 World Series for Tampa Bay, throwing two innings of one-run ball against Philly.
  • This could be Albert Pujols' final game as a Cardinal and/or at Busch Stadium.
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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com