With the St. Louis Cardinals hanging on to a two-game lead for the second National League Wild Card spot, it's time to consider who would get the start in the one-game playoff.
Of course, the Wild Card is far from being locked up, but the Cardinals are working hard to stay in the mix. The Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers are all doing their best to put themselves into position to take the spot.
If the Cardinals manage to make it into the playoffs, who will make the start?
Lohse has been solid for the Cardinals all season and by all rights, would be the obvious answer.
He hasn't been flashy, but he's shown a level of consistency that the Cardinals have yet to see from anyone on their staff in 2012.
Lohse isn't a strikeout pitcher, but he doesn't have to be. He has a decent ground ball rate, but is more of a pop fly pitcher who gets quick outs and goes deep into games.
Lohse would certainly be a reasonable choice, but it's not as black and white as it seems.
Fresh off Tommy John surgery, Adam Wainwright struggled early in 2012. As the season trudged on, he made steady progress and by June was looking a lot like the old Adam Wainwright.
Overall his last 10 starts have showed a continued steady trend, but he's had a couple of shaky starts to the point that some began to question whether he was wearing down.
Tommy John recovery is long and tedious. Tack a full season in the starting rotation on at the end and there is plenty of reason for a pitcher to be worn down. I'm not sure that's the case, but I'm also not sure he is the guy to give the ball to in the one game playoff.
Since his three-week stint in the Cardinals bullpen, rookie starter Lance Lynn seems to be returning to form.
He has retooled his approach after working with some of the other starters and appears to be rejuvenated. Frankly, he wasn't showing signs of being worn down to begin with: he just looked like he needed to step back and take some time to refine his approach.
Lynn has worked hard this season to make the transition from "hard-thrower" and "pitcher."
He's now a proven pitcher. His level head and ability to keep his cool in pressure situations make him a prime candidate to handle a pivotal start like the Wild Card playoff. If he can handle the eighth inning of World Series Game 7, this could be right up his alley.
But, there is an important x-factor...
Carpenter is set to make his first start today at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs.
He has worked hard to get back into the game and if the "powers that be" weren't convinced he would be able to pitch competitively, he wouldn't be making the start.
Of course, until he takes the mound nothing is certain, but the Cardinals have reason to be optimistic about Carpenter's return.
Carpenter took the mound on Saturday, September 15 at Dodger Stadium in his final simulated start. He made it threw 95 pitches and looked good enough to earn a move back into the starting rotation.
If he returns and is anywhere close to being the Chris Carpenter who carried the Cardinals through the 2011 postseason, then may very well get the nod for the Wild Card playoff. There is always the possibility that they would want to hold him for game one of the National League Division Series, but that's a gamble they don't need to take.
The Wild Card playoff is all or nothing and the Cardinals have to throw the best of everything they have at the game, assuming they make it there.
That may very well mean Chris Carpenter.
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