Cardinals keep on cruising despite average starting pitching
Posted: Friday October 8, 2004 2:13AM; Updated: Friday October 8, 2004 2:13AM
Jason Marquis had a rough night, but the bullpen and the bats saved the Cardinals on Thursday.
ST. LOUIS -- Good starting pitching, to the marauding Cardinals of St. Louis, is not much more than an afterthought these days. It's nice to have. And to play the game, you kind of need at least some of the stuff.
But the Cardinals are doing just fine without it. The Cardinals, in fact, are doing better than fine. The Cardinals can win this thing -- this whole postseason tournament, all the way through the World Series -- with the so-so starting pitching that they're getting.
It's amazing, really, when you consider that their starting pitching is so so-so it's not funny.
"You look out there," objected Jason Marquis, the Cardinals' starter on Thursday night, "and there aren't too many true aces out there that are going to shut you down."
He's right. In this postseason, there's Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt of the Astros. There's Johan Santana of the Twins. There's Curt Schilling and, maybe, Pedro Martinez of the Red Sox.
And everywhere else there are ... guys. Guys who can, hopefully, keep their teams in games just long enough to get to the bullpen. Guys who, hopefully, won't give up six runs in the first three innings.
Guys like Marquis and the rest of the Cardinals' rotation.
Thursday night at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals gave the ball to Marquis, a promising young right-hander who was making his first postseason start. On his 12th pitch, he served up a fat fastball that Jayson Werth deposited 388 feet into the left field bleachers. And things got worse from there.
The kid jumped out ahead of hitters then let them off the hook. He went deep into the count on just about everyone he faced. He gave up two more home runs. And then he lost whatever he had that was good, faster than Britney on her honeymoon.
Marquis huffed and puffed his way through 3 1/3 innings -- 89 pitches worth -- before manager Tony La Russa came to get his ball back.
And the Cardinals still won.
They didn't just win. They won big. They beat the Dodgers, 8-3, and now lead the first-to-three National League Division Series two games to none. They can close it out Saturday in Los Angeles.
Two games into a postseason where they're expected by many to win it all, the Cardinals' starting pitching is as advertised. In Game 1 the other night, Woody Williams was OK. He went six innings. He gave up eight hits and a couple of runs. It was a good, workmanlike outing. Nothing more. And the Cardinals still beat the Dodgers, by that same 8-3 score.
Of course, the great thing for the Cardinals is that it hardly matters how the starters throw. Everybody knows that. It doesn't matter because the Cardinals have the best lineup in the NL. If it's not Scott Rolen or Albert Pujols or Larry Walker or Jim Edmonds doing the work, it's Edgar Renteria or Reggie Sanders or Tony Womack. Or Mike Matheny, for crying out loud.
Thursday, catcher Matheny, the eighth hitter in the lineup, drove in four runs with two hits. The 6-7-8 hitters -- Renteria, Sanders and Matheny -- went 8-for-11. It's almost unfair.
"They've been doing it all year," Marquis said.
Good starting pitching -- usually good power pitching -- trumps good hitting. That's what's supposed to win in the postseason. But it doesn't always work that way. It may not work that way this postseason.
The Angels won the 2002 World Series, remember, with just decent starters and a lineup that hit .310 against. the Giants in the World Series. These Cardinals are capable of putting up those kinds of numbers. They've run through these first two games against the Dodgers hitting .299.
And the Cardinals have something else, too, something the Angels had in '02 -- a good bullpen. Though the St. Louis pen probably is not as strong as the Angels' was then, the Cardinals have a good one, deep and versatile, and La Russa plays it like a Stradivarius. Five members of the pen went 5 2/3 innings on Thursday and didn't allow a run. They gave up only two hits.
In the two games, the Cardinals' bullpen has allowed five hits and one run in 8 2/3 innings.
"We have a lot of depth in the bullpen and, man, they were outstanding. Every one of them," La Russa said.
With that lineup and that bullpen, the Cardinals clearly don't need great starts right now. They haven't needed them against the Dodgers.
But sometime in the next couple of weeks, they probably will. Sometime this October, if some good starts happened to come the Cardinals' way, it sure wouldn't hurt.