Game four in St. Louis.
But before we get there, let’s visit the story-lines that made this game great.
Albert Pujols could be playing his final game in St.Louis as a Cardinal.
While it’s hard to picture Albert Pujols in Dodger or Cub blue next season, it’s even harder to imagine which team has the money for the salary he is demanding. He’s 31 and wants a 10-year deal. If that’s not bad enough he wants a 10-year deal worth $300 million. The odds of a team paying $300 million for Albert Pujols until he’s 41 are worse than the odds of Terry Francona deciding to return as Red Sox manager in 2012. Albert Pujolis will most likely end up a Cardinal next year. No team has the money he wants, and he’s said he would like to remain in St. Louis. This offseason will be a window to the free agent market of the future, and Albert will land on a contending team. But with the Yankees and Red Sox locked in long-term contracts with a first baseman, there aren’t many big spenders in the market. Pujols would probably be better suited just staying in St. Louis.
Roy Oswalt has never lost a post season start.
While it sounds impressive, there’s bruises on his record. One glaring stat is Albert Pujols’ numbers against Oswalt. Pujols is 30 for 95 with seven home runs against him in the postseason. In 10 career postseason starts, Oswalt has five wins and a 3.25 ERA. His numbers against the Cardinals in the postseason are a little better. He’s 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts. The last time he faced the Cardinals in the postseason he was pitching his Houston Astros to the World Series. Oswalt didn’t need to dominate the Cardinals in game four, but he needed to keep the game close.
The Cardinals were 17-8 in September. The Phillies were just 15-14.
St. Louis certainly carried momentum into the playoffs by snatching the wild card from the Atlanta Braves on the last day of the season. But they also carried a tired roster. Pujols power walks on and off the field, though he swings his arms dramatically to give the illusion that he’s jogging. Matt Holliday was beat up, but he was in the game four lineup for the first time as a starter in the series.
Chris Carpenter pitched the final game of the season and Tony LaRussa, Cardinals manager, has lined him up for the potential game five start.
But hoping for a Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay game five may have been too optimistic of the LaRussa. St. Louis needed to win game four at home against Roy Oswalt and the Philadelphia Phillies. LaRussa sent out his best lineup, had a full Busch Stadium crowd screaming for a Cardinals win, and threw his best trade acquisition.
Edwin Jackson had to start game four.
A tall task for the young right-hander, but he was called on. Saving the Cardinals’ season was his job, and a powerful, run producing Phillies lineup stood in their way. Surely the Cardinals lineup was ready to support their pitcher with early runs on Oswalt. And Jackson needed to avoid the long ball and Chase Utley.
An early start in St. Louis, five pm, cast a shadow over the infield and that just touched the outfield grass. Jackson’s first postseason start began with Jimmy Rollins.
Easily the best Phillies hitter in the postseason, Rollins had seven hits and a .583 average entering game four. He stepped in looking to set a tone for Philadelphia.
Rollins smashed a ground-ruled double over the head of John Jay who clearly had issues with the sun.
Jackson needed to avoid Chase Utley, and he didn’t in his first at-bat. Utley roped a triple down the right field line, scoring Jimmy Rollins. Utley scored on a Hunter Pence single.
2-0 Phillies after the top of the first.
Not the start Tony LaRussa or Busch Stadium wanted. But the Cardinals hadn’t even had a chance to see Roy Oswalt yet. Was it too early to give up on St. Louis?
David Freese had a two-run double off Oswalt in the bottom of the fourth. 3-2 Cardinals (Skip Schumaker scored on a Lance Berkman single in the bottom of the first).
Now the pressure was on Oswalt and the Phillies.
Through five innings, Oswalt threw 62 pitches. 42 of those pitches were strikes. Four hits, three earned runs and five strikeouts under his belt, Oswalt started the sixth with a Berkman groundout. Holliday singled, and Molina flew out to left field.
David Freese up with two outs and a runner on first.
On an 0-1 pitch, Oswalt grooved a fastball that Freese blasted to center. Shane Victorino scaled the wall but the ball had already landed on the grass hill behind the center field wall. A two-run bomb that put the Cardinals up 5-2.
Arthur Rhodes replaced Edwin Jackson to start the seventh inning. Jackson ended his night surrendering just five hits and two earned runs. He walked one batter and struck out four. A performance that LaRussa expected from his young starter.
The Phillies weren’t done either, though. With a wild pitch from Cardinals reliever Fernando Salas, Michael Martinez scored from third and made it a 5-3 game. Mark Rzepczynski replaced Salas and had Ryan Howard representing the tying run at the plate.
With a sinker and two sliders put Ryan Howard, the heart of the Phillies lineup, and game four went down.
Jason Motte came in for the Cardinals to finish off the inning, and led the Cardinals to a 5-3 victory. He retired all three batters he faced and put the Phillies away for at least another day. Game five goes back to Philadelphia, where Roy Halladay will be waiting.
Chris Carpenter will need to be electric to keep the Phillies at bay in game five. It will be a gripping pitching matchup. One worth watching and worth analyzing.
But for now, let’s remember a great game four.