St. Louis Cardinals: Do Cards Need Albert Pujols to Come Up Big in Game 7?

Ari Kramer@Ari_KramerSenior Analyst IIOctober 28, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals: Do Cards Need Albert Pujols to Come Up Big in Game 7?

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    Albert Pujols is the face of the St. Louis Cardinals, but he doesn't necessarily need to have a big game in order for the Cardinals to beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series.

    That doesn't mean, though, that the Cardinals won't need Pujols to lead the offensive charge. There are still three reasons why St. Louis needs its star to provide.

No: Lance Berkman Is on a Torrid Streak

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    No St. Louis Cardinal is hotter at the plate than Lance Berkman. The 35-year-old veteran is hitting .435 in the World Series, has reached base in more than half of his plate appearances and had the game-tying hit in the 10th inning last night.

    Yet somehow, Ron Washington still doesn't fully respect Berkman. The Rangers' manager elected to walk Albert Pujols—the potential game-winning run—with two outs and a man on second in the 10th last night. Just so he could face Berkman.

    The way Berkman has been hitting the ball, Washington is fortunate Big Puma didn't shoot the gap, which could have enabled Pujols to cross the plate. Berkman still delivered in the clutch.

    If Albert Pujols cannot step up in Game 7, at least the Cardinals have Berkman, who went 1-for-2 off Matt Harrison in Game 3. 

Yes: Chris Carpenter

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    Through most of the World Series, Chris Carpenter has sufficiently baffled the Texas Rangers lineup, allowing four earned runs in 13 innings against one of baseball's more potent offenses.

    Entering the series, only three everyday Rangers had faced Carpenter. Adrian Beltre, Mike Napoli and Michael Young were a combined 6-for-12 off the Cardinals' ace.

    However, the rest of the team faced Carpenter for the first time in Game 1.

    Now, the Rangers have seen Carpenter twice. Generally, a pitcher has more of an advantage facing a hitter for the first time, but that advantage decreases as the hitter gains more experience against the pitcher.

    That's not necessarily saying Carpenter won't be as effective tonight, though it certainly provides reason for optimism in the Texas dugout.

    Additionally, Carpenter has had just three days of rest since his start in Game 5. In the regular season, Carpenter never started on fewer than four days of rest.

    He made his first start on three days of rest in Game 2 of the NLDS, in which he lasted just three innings while allowing four runs.

No: Matt Harrison

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    The St. Louis Cardinals chased Matt Harrison from Game 3 after 3.2 innings. The Rangers southpaw allowed five runs—three earned. 

    Pujols went 1-for-2 against Harrison but didn't hit any of his three home runs until Tony LaRussa summoned his bullpen. Instead, the rest of the Cardinals lineup attacked Harrison, which bodes well for Game 7.

Yes: The Ineffectiveness of St. Louis' Bullpen

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    The St. Louis Cardinals will need all the runs they can muster because their bullpen has been ineffective throughout the World Series. With the exception of Game 1, the Cardinal bullpen has allowed at least one run in every game.

    In the World Series, the bullpen has surrendered 16 runs in 22.2 innings of work—that calculates to a 6.49 ERA.

    All hands will be on deck in Game 7, but there's no denying the Cardinal bullpen is tired.

    Therefore, it is imperative that Albert Pujols and the rest of the Cardinals score several runs. No lead is safe.

No: Texas' Back Is Against the Wall

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    The Texas Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series—twice in two innings!—but the bullpen couldn't shut the door.

    Instead, the St. Louis Cardinals won one of the most exciting games in World Series history. At home. Draining Texas of its momentum.

    Texas hasn't lost two consecutive games since August 26, but this will be the toughest loss to overcome.

Yes: It's Albert Pujols

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    The crowd knows it. His teammates know it. We all know it.

    This could be Albert Pujols' final game as a St. Louis Cardinal.

    If Pujols sets the tone early, his teammates might be even more motivated to follow suit. After all, it was Pujols' one-out double in the ninth last night that triggered the Cardinals' two-run comeback.