It's an interesting scenario. The Cardinals have pushed the mighty Phillies to the brink.
I for one believe that the Cardinals will do the impossible tomorrow night, and knock off the Phillies and send them into Winter hibernation—the second consecutive shortened postseason for the vaunted Phillies.
Why do I think that the Cards have the ability to knock off the big bully on the block?
These five reasons are precisely why it will be the fellas in the Cardinal Red celebrating on the infield tomorrow night in South Philadelphia.
How could I not begin with St. Louis' scheduled starter for tomorrow night? Their undisputed ace and leader of their pitching staff, Chris Carpenter.
Sure, Carpenter didn't pitch particularly well in Game 2 of this series. However, it's been well-noted that he did so on three days' rest—the first such time in his career that he's pitched on three days' rest.
The reason that Carpenter made the leap to pitch on short rest was for just THIS reason—Game 5.
If the Cards were going to go five games with the Phils, Carpenter needed to pitch Game 2 in order to start Game 5, which will be played on his regular rest schedule.
During the regular season, Carpenter pitched against the Phillies twice. These two starts resulted in two wins for St. Louis: A 12-2 victory in June and a 5-0 victory in September—a game played during the Phillies' much publicized eight-game losing streak.
Carpenter's combined line for these two games is 15 innings pitched, 13 hits, one earned run, two walks and 12 strikeouts. Pretty impressive stuff.
Additionally, in one regular season start last season, Carpenter baffled the Phillies, again to the tune of eight innings pitched while allowing one earned run and striking out four.
When healthy, Carpenter has been one of the National League's best pitchers.
On Friday, he'll be out to remind everyone exactly why!
Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday key the Cardinals offense
Whether this surprises you or not—I don't know—but the Cardinals led the National League in runs scored during the regular season. The Cards piled up 762 runs scored, 27 more than the Reds and Rockies. They also compiled 1,513 total hits—again, good enough for first in the league.
While tallying all of these hits, they weren't just a bunch of singles, either. The Cardinals clubbed 308 doubles, one behind NL leaders Houston and New York. They also managed 162 home runs, good for sixth in the league.
Not surprisingly, after seeing these numbers, the Cardinals led the National League in team batting average (.273), on base percentage (.341) and (of course) OPS (.766).
The bats haven't cooled too much so far in this series. Halladay, after a shaky first inning in Game 1, handled the lineup pretty well the rest of the way.
On the other hand, Cliff Lee was not able to control the Cards' offense quite so successfully. After being staked an early 4-0 lead, Lee was beat up to the tune of six innings, 12 hits and five earned runs.
All told, the Cardinals banged out 13 hits in their Game 2 win.
In Game 3, the Cardinals managed 12 hits—however, they also managed to leave 14 runners stranded on base in a 3-2 loss.
In fact, through four games, the Cardinals' team batting average is 21 points higher than that of the Phillies.
The cardinals celebrate after winning on the regular season's final day.
The St. Louis Cardinals have been playing with their backs to the wall for well over a month now.
This feeling is nothing new to this team.
Game 5 is a win-or-go-home scenario. After going 18-8 during September, the Cardinals clinched their Wild Card berth on the last day of the season, avoiding a one-game playoff only because of the near-epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves.
On the flip side, the Phillies owned Major League Baseball's best regular season record.
They cruised to the NL East division title. They hadn't played a meaningful game in recent memory prior to this playoff series.
It's safe to say that Friday night's Game 5 will be meaningful. It's a must-win, back-to-the-wall situation.
We've seen how the Cardinals will respond.
How will the Phillies?
I can't help but list Ryan Howard as one of the reasons that the Cardinals will win Game 5.
The Big Piece has been a big let down yet again this post season. After last season's 0 RBI production in the playoffs, Howard is just 2-15 with a walk in this year's NLDS.
The man has more holes in his swing than a piece of Swiss cheese. He's like a Katy Perry song—he's hot and then he's cold.
Well now, he's cold. Ice cold. I figure come November we'll see him starring in a commercial with Ice Cube and a Coors Light bottle arguing over who's colder.
Argument over—it's Ryan Howard!
The Cardinals pitching staff has abused Howard during this series—and then in a real shot to the shins, they intentionally walked Hunter Pence to get to Ryan Howard.
Who would have ever thought we'd see the day? Pretty much anyone who has seen the Phillies play enough, I suppose.
The result of said walk and subsequent pitching to Howard? Advantage Cardinals.
Howard is one truly awful Kyle Lohse pitch from having an even more awful playoff series.
Without production from their clean-up hitter, the Phillies will not win Game 5.
On Saturday night, my girlfriend—a Phillies fan—asked me, who is the Cardinals' star player?
My response was Albert Pujols—but he's more like the Major League's star player.
For the past 11 seasons, in terms of on-field production, Albert Pujols has been at or near the top of the list among all Major Leaguers.
His manager would bat the pitcher eighth just so that Pujols could bat third. This way, Pujols could bat in the first inning, guaranteed every time, and then when the pitcher turned the lineup over, lo and behold, Pujols was in the four spot—essentially batting cleanup.
The reason being? How about a .328 career batting average and 445 career home runs in those 11 seasons?
That's reason enough for me to do some odd things to my batting order.
Pujols has won three NL MVP awards and finished second in voting four times.
He is Cardinals baseball over the course of the last decade, and when all is said and done, he will go into the annals of the game as one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. It's undeniable.
Pujols is also a free agent this season. I believe that he will want to stay in St. Louis; however, everyone knows that this season in St. Louis could be his last.
He wants it to last as long as possible, and on Friday night, he's going to do what it takes to get the job done and move on the NLCS.