MLB Playoffs 2011: Will St. Louis Cardinals' Overworked Bullpen Impact Game 4?

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MLB Playoffs 2011: Will St. Louis Cardinals' Overworked Bullpen Impact Game 4?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Lost in the historic offensive magnificence of Albert Pujols’ three-home run display in St. Louis’ Game 3 win of the World Series are the struggles on the opposite side of the ball. The pitching performances last night were non-existent, as both the Cardinals’ and Rangers’ bullpens were called on early and often. Given the football score of the game, it was not surprising and rather necessary.

However, there is something to be aware of moving forward in the remainder of the Series. Manager Tony La Russa has called the Cardinals’ bullpen like a creditor looking for his money. In 14 postseason games this year, Cardinals relievers have logged 53.1 innings. That's a staggering number of pitches from the Cards' non-starters.

Will those relief innings have an affect for the remainder of the World Series?

La Russa is known for his exaggerated use of the bullpen, going with matchups and gut feelings several times in one game, even several times in an inning. But with the use of so many relievers so often, will this have an impact on their performance?

In Game 3, La Russa used four relievers. The winning pitcher, Lance Lynn, threw 47 pitches, making him likely ineligible for tonight’s Game 4. This could pose a problem for the Cardinals, should they need bullpen help, especially since the Cards’ Game 4 starter, Edwin Jackson, has had his fair share of trouble so far this postseason.

In three playoff starts, Jackson has pitched only 12.1 innings, sporting an awful 5.84 ERA while giving up four home runs. It’s almost a certainty that tonight’s start will be short against the Texas Rangers.

With the video game-like offensive numbers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, La Russa and St. Louis had better hope that Jackson can pitch deep into the game. If he is unable to give the Cardinals six solid innings—hopefully more—St. Louis will have to turn to its depleted and overused relievers. This doesn’t bode well, given the fact that there are two games remaining in Texas’ home stadium.

If Jackson cannot produce an effective quality start, La Russa won’t be calling the bullpen, he’ll be dialing 911.

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