Monday, October 1, 2012

Cardinals Closing In On Playoff Spot

With 3 games to go, the Cardinals have a 2 game lead on the second wild card spot. At 86-73, the Cardinals could clinch tonight with a win and a Dodgers loss. The Redbirds are 10-3 in their last 13 games and just took 2 out of 3 against the Nationals. For the final series of the season the Reds will come to town for a three game set. The Reds are in a chase for the National League's best record and are currently tied with the Nationals with 96 wins. The Dodgers will be playing their archrival Giants to close the season. There is still a chance for the Dodgers to sneak in, but they will need to win at least 2 games and probably sweep the Giants, and the Cardinals would need to get swept for that to happen.

For the Reds series, the Cardinals will start Jaime Garcia Monday, Chris Carpenter on Tuesday, and are still deciding on their starter for Wednesday's season finale. It could be Adam Wainwright, but he won't pitch if the Cardinals have clinched by then. Waino is a candidate to start Friday's wild card playoff game vs. the Braves. Kyle Lohse is also a candidate. The Braves have already announced that Kris Medlen will start for them in the wild card game. Medlen has gone 9-0 with a 0.97 ERA in 12 starts since joining the rotation in the second half. The Braves have won 23 straight starts that Medlen has made.

There will be some decisions to make on the postseason roster as well. For the one game wild card playoff, they could leave a couple of starting pitchers off, so they could add an extra bullpen arm, or a bench player. Teams can change their roster between rounds. Last season, the Cardinals did this between every round. Skip Schumaker, Jake Westbrook, Adron Chambers, Kyle McClellan, and Lance Lynn were among the players moved on and off the roster.

The Cardinals have already announced that Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal will not be able to play in the postseason due to injuries. Jake Westbrook is also done for the year. If the Cards go with 13 position players like they have all season, there will be some debate on who the final bench guys will be. Matt Carpenter, Skip Schumaker(or Daniel Descalso, depending on who's starting second), and Tony Cruz are locks for the roster. The last two spots are up in the air right now. With Pete Kozma's excellent play this September, Ryan Jackson could find himself off the roster. In the outfield, Shane Robinson and Adron Chambers are the likely candidates to be included on the roster. I think Chambers will get the final spot over Jackson because of his speed.

For the bullpen, Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs, and Edward Mujica are locks. Joe Kelly is likely to be part of the bullpen mix if he isn't asked to start. Trevor Rosenthal can reach up to 100 mph and has done well out of the pen since being promoted, I would think he makes it as well. That leaves two spots up for grabs. A lefty will surely be part of the mix, with Marc Rzepczynski and Sam Freeman competing for that spot. Both could make it, but I doubt they will. Mike Matheny has been going with Freeman over Scrabble the last few weeks, so its possible that it would be Freeman. Fernando Salas has had a up and down season, and he could find himself off the roster. Likely, the final spot could be between Salas and Scrabble. Shelby Miller is also a possibility.

For the playoff rotation, there is some questions as well. Lohse or Wainwright should get the start on Friday's playoff game. If the Cardinals advance, they have plenty of candidates after that. Carpenter will surely be part of the rotation. The last spot could be between Garcia and Lance Lynn. Garcia is lights out at Busch Stadium, but shaky on the road. Lynn has fallen off a bit in the second half and hasn't been as durable. He could start, but could also be a long man out of the bullpen.

The rest of the playoff picture is starting to look clear. The Nats, Reds, Giants, and Braves have clinched in the National League. The Cardinals magic number is 2. In the American League, the Rangers, Yankees, and Orioles have clinched playoff spots. The Orioles and Yankees are tied for the AL East lead. The Tigers have clinched at least a tie for the AL Central title, and Miguel Cabrera is has the lead in all threeTriple Crown categories with three games to go. The Athletics have at least clinched a tie for the second wild card spot. Both the Rays and Angels are three games back. It looks like Albert Pujols will be missing the playoffs in his first season as an Angel.

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