Momentum, who needs momentum? Everyone in the baseball realm did not see bright futures for the Tigers and the Cardinals prior to the beginning of the playoffs. Both limped in with poor records during the stretch run, headlined by the Cardinals who came close to suffering one of the worst collapses in playoff run history.
However that was then, this is now.
With Jason down for the season and the rest of the Cardinals bullpen being suspect, everyone saw them lying flat on their back at the feet of more potent pitching staffs, mainly San Diego. However again, that was then this is now. Adam Wainwright emergence combined with his 0.00 ERA has solidified a potentially shaky bullpen and Jeff Weaver’s performance has given St. Louis that crucial third starter behind stalwarts Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan.
The Cardinals winning the NLCS was as much of an indictment of the Mets as it was a tribute to the Cardinals. The Mets should have won this series going away, especially with the pitching performances from the youngsters John Maine and Oliver Perez. St. Louis outside of Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols did not have any consistent hitting. In game seven those hitting around Pujols were a combined 0 for 8. Two of St. Louis’ big bats were non-existant, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were a combined 10 for 43 with just two home runs.
Before our eyes last night Adam Wainwright seemed to come of age. With the world passing by his eyes at over 100 mph, he threw a nasty curve ball which froze the Cardinal Killer, Carlos Beltran. The pitch sequence to Beltran was masterful. Fastball inside at 93 mph, curve at 76 mph, then an even better curve and Carlos never even lifted the bat off his shoulder. So down went the Mets with the bases loaded and off to the World Series again are the Cardinals.
Waiting for the Cardinals with rested arms is Detroit. After winning the ALDS in four over the Yankees and quickly sweeping Oakland, Detroit has had some time off. Most teams would not want to rest as long as Detroit has prior to the start of the series, but given the type of pitchers the Tigers have, this layoff might have been the best thing to rest those power arms. Joel Zumaya and Sean Casey will be healthy now for game one, so Detroit was not disappointed at all to sit around for a full week and rest.
The game one pitching match up will be Justin Virlander vs. Anthony Reyes. Virlander gets the start, followed by Kenny Rogers, then Nate Robertson, and Jeremy Bonderman. St. Louis’ rotation set-up is Reyes, then Jeff Weaver, followed by Carpenter, then Suppan.
Detroit has the edge in just about every category over the Cardinals. If they continue to pitch the way they have this far in the playoffs, the Tigers will cruise to an easy title. Everything points their way, the pitching, Detroit has a more complete lineup from top to bottom, and they have the home field advantage.
If St. Louis is going to win, someone other then Pujols is going to have to step up. Molina did last series, but two or three others in the lineup must get hot. Now would be a good time for Edmonds to come out of his slump so he can give some much needed protection to Pujols.
Overall, Detroit is just too complete of a team. The Cardinals will put up a small fight, but Detroit should wrap it up in game five on the back of a second stellar start from Virlander. So sit back and enjoy. This series is without a single big money team. As baseball fans we will see very good pitching, hit and runs, timely stolen bases and most of all fundamental baseball. This series is about game management, moving the runners and productive outs. This series will be a pure baseball fans dream.