While the Cardinal's up and down play over the last several weeks put their playoff chances in serious jeopardy, this weekend's performance in Houston probably changed their condition to critical. They enter September with a 6 1/2 game deficit to make up to even get to the wild-card. While the Brewers were beating up on the defenseless Pirates, the Cards were letting games slip away without much of a fight in Houston. The Cards failed to build on the emotional come from behind victory over the Brewers on Wednesday night, and instead turned in a mostly passionless effort in Houston. They wasted terrific starting performances from Kyle Lohse on Friday and Todd Wellemeyer on Sunday, failing to produce many runs against the likes of Randy Wolf and Wandy Rodriguez. Unbelievably, the Cardinals got swept in Houston without even seeing Roy Oswalt.
Without diving into the obvious question of why we would EVER let Lance Berkman beat us in the 9th inning...(I've said before that I am pretty much in favor of always walking Berkman....regardless of the situation), I'll instead try to look ahead to September. I'll say up front that we are not out of it....strange things happen in baseball. Maybe the Cards will rip off the 8 or 9 game winning streak that has eluded them all year. Maybe the Cubs will take it to the Brewers in their 6 September meetings.....who knows? Regardless, though, here are the things I'd like to see down the stretch.....and the things I don't want to see. This is of course, all written in the context of playing every game to win as long as we are in the race.
3 Things I Would Like to See:
- Playing time for Felipe Lopez. If we are auditioning him for a job in 2009, let's see completely what he can bring to the table. Let him start every day at 2B or SS and give him meaningful ABs......if he's going to start in 2009, let's make sure that is what the team wants.
- Jaime Garcia. I know his last performance against the Brewers was abysmal, but I think he has the potential to be a very good LH reliever for us in 2009. Left-handed relief is likely the biggest hole for the Cardinals to fill during the 2009 off-season, so I'd love to see Garcia in more clutch, late inning roles. He's got a lot of upside, and I pray that Ron Villone won't be back in 2009, so let's see more of Garcia.
- Joe Mather: With Ankiel still struggling to return from injury, I would give Mather as many starts as possible in the OF, and see if he can be an everyday guy in 2009. An more detailed determination of this could change the way we deal with the outfield situation in the off-season
3 Things I Don't Want to See:
- Adam Kennedy. I know....I know he is signed for 2009, but Lopez playing should come at Kennedy's expense. This team already knows what Kennedy can provide and they certainly know his limitations. There is little to gain in September by Kennedy getting regular starts.
- Ron Villone. I'm sure I don't really need to explain this one.
- Chris Carpenter. Yes, I really said that I don't want to see Carpenter, but I will add a qualifier: If he is not 100% healthy, and we continue to look like a long-shot for the playoffs....there is little value in pushing Carpenter back into action. This team would be much better served by doing everything in their power to make sure Carp is 100% healthy by Opening Day 2009. If he is still struggling with the shoulder.....don't chance it......and keep him out.
The state of the 2008 Cardinals is not great entering September, but by keeping an eye focused 2009....which is really what this team was built for.....the Cards can assure that September 2008 is as productive as possible, even if the benefit of that production is the 2009 season.