QUESTION: Tony La Russa is not tipping his hand, but assuming there is a Game 7 Friday night, who do you think should start and why?
The choices apparently are Edwin Jackson on regular rest or Chris Carpenter on short. There are reasons to consider each; however, TLR often operates under the premise of which option leaves the fewest regrets if it doesn’t work. Despite Carpenter sitting on a career-most 267.1 innings and having made an abortive start on short rest, I’m guessing TLR opts with his ace. That’s not an endorsement. It is a prediction.
Chris Carpenter. Because if he says he’s ready, he’s the Cardinals’ best option. And the last I checked, he says he’s ready. Heaven help the coach who has to go in there and tell him he’s not starting in favor of somebody else. If you think he curses a bit on the field ... Whew, boy.
Chris Carpenter asked to start. When your staff ace makes that declaration, La Russa has to go that way. He’s not asking for nine innings, just five or six good ones. Everyone but Garcia will be available to relieve.
I have to imagine that Chris Carpenter will be the guy La Russa hands the ball to. He is the ace and has earned that privelege. But I am not looking for an eight-inning, gritty performance. A Game 7 is an all-hands-on-deck deal with every live arm on call. If La Russa has to give the ball to Carp for four innings, then use any combination of his starting staff (Lohse, Jackson, Westbrook) and bullpen, so be it.
It doesn’t matter who La Russa picks for Game 7. He’ll either choose Chris Carpenter, or Carpenter will tear the ball from the hands of whomever he picks, tie the guy up in the clubhouse, and take the mound. There are situations in which you turn to Chris Carpenter, and situations where you turn to Kyle Lohse. This seems like a Chris Carpenter situation to me.
LARRY BOROWSKY (Founder of Viva El Birdos and editor of “Maple Street Press Cardinals Annual”)
I would choose Edwin Jackson, with Carpenter available at the first sign of trouble. Jackson will be on normal rest, and he’ll be pitching in St. Louis, where he was very good after the trade (3.10 ERA in 8 starts). He has been pretty good in three of his four postseason starts. The temptation to start Carpenter will be great, but the track record of short-rest postseason starts over the last 20 years or so is very poor. Carpenter was way out of sorts in his short-rest start in the NLDS, and he has been prone to bad mechanics all year (including the postseason). I think Jackson on normal rest is a better bet than Carpenter on short rest.
Starting a pitcher on three days rest is usually a bad idea. But with the Cards lacking a compelling alternative, Chris Carpenter could give the team a psychological boost IF the team forces a Game 7. Tony La Russa could keep him on a very short lease and make 10 pitching changes if need be to get through the game. I almost never support the old three-days-rest ploy, but it would make obvious sense in this case.