Starting Up September

Daniel ShoptawAnalyst ISeptember 1, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 23:  Joel Pineiro #35 of the St. Louis Cardinals celebrates after throwing a two hit complete game shutout against the New York Mets at Citi Field on June 23, 2009 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Not a lot of news out of the off day.  You hope that means that most of the Cardinals rested up, played some golf at Albert Pujols's charity tournament, and prepared for the final lap.

With the Cubs losing last night, pushing the lead out to 10.5 games in the division, the largest in baseball, that final stretch is pretty much a victory lap.  Nothing is certain, of course, and until that magic number ticks down to Kerry Robinson, anything can happen (as 2006 almost showed us), but it's going to be pretty surprising if a team with these three workhorses at the top of the rotation go on any kind of extensive losing streak.

Instead of focusing on the Cubs, though, the Cards probably are keeping their eye on the Dodgers, as their loss last night puts St. Louis within a game of the best record in the NL.  Having that home field advantage all the way through would be very nice.  Then again, with the second best, you've got the home field in the first round and with the Dodgers' post-season history, they might not make it to the NLCS, even with the moves they made last night.

Today is the first day that rosters expanded and teams are able to bring up to 15 new faces into the dugout.  The Cardinals first move will likely be Troy Glaus, but others will wait until Memphis is either eliminated or done with the playoffs.  Even then, there probably won't be too many exciting names coming up and they won't get just a whole lot of playing time.

When people looked at the schedule back in March, they probably looked at September, saw the Cards were playing the Brewers three times in that stretch, and thought there'd be some classic fall baseball being played then.  Instead, the Cards sit 12 games ahead of a Milwaukee that has been a little bit of a disappointment this year, even factoring in the losses of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets.

Joel Pineiro takes the hill tonight against the Brew Crew, whom the Cardinals last faced just after the Fourth of July.  Pineiro has faced the Brewers once this year, going the distance and allowing only three hits and a run.  He's had very good results against these hitters in the past, keeping them in the park for the most part.

Old friend Braden Looper goes for Milwaukee.  Looper has also just gone once in the Cards/Brew matchups this year and been very effective, gaining the win on six innings of three hit, one (earned) run ball.  Looper's been able to shut the Cardinal hitters down in his career, though most of them haven't got a huge sample size to judge from.  Looking at those numbers, it wouldn't be any surprise to see Khalil Greene get a start tonight.

To scoreboard watch, the Cubs host Houston this evening and the Dodgers welcome Arizona.  Looking forward to this push to October!