Don’t look now, but the St. Louis Cardinals have the largest division lead in all of baseball.
Thursday’s victory over the Padres, combined with the Dodgers’ whomping of the Cubs (thanks in part of Russell Martin’s grand slam) have upped the Cards’ lead to 7 games.
(Check out the standings here)
The Cards are hot, no doubt about it, having just come off a winning series against the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Now you might knock their schedule of late, as they’ve faced the Pirates, Reds, and Padres before the Dodgers. And now, the Padres again. In those games, St. Louis is 11-2.
Rip the schedule all you want, but good teams do tend to beat up on bad ones. And bad teams, well, they do whatever the Cubs are doing.
With the Cubs trying to figure out how to blame it all on a goat, the Brewers having essentially thrown in the towel at the trade deadline, and the Astros breaking new ground in sleepy-eyed mediocrity, a division that looked pretty tight only a couple weeks ago is suddenly taking on the characteristics of a runaway.
Is it over? Of course not. But even Bluto Blutarsky is beginning to have his doubts.
If you Twitter, and think photos of a grousing Jamie Moyer are amusing, you can follow me at @Bharks.
St. Louis announced its roster for the NLDS and the biggest news is the inclusion of Adam Wainwright as a reliever.
Expected to miss the entire season following a torn Achilles’ tendon in April, he instead returned to make three relief appearances in the final week of the season and now may be counted on to get some key late-inning outs against the Cubs.
Right-hander Steve Cishek and left-hander Randy Choate are not on the NLDS roster, losing their bullpen spots to Tyler Lyons and Carlos Villanueva. Outfielders Jon Jay and Tommy Pham both made the roster, which had been a topic of much debate in Cardinals nation.
First baseman Mark Reynolds made the roster, but first baseman Matt Adams did not despite returning from the disabled list for some late-season action. And of course catcher Yadier Molina is on the roster and will give it a go playing through a sprained left thumb that’s sidelined him since September 20.
John Lackey will start Game 1, followed in the rotation by Jaime Garcia in Game 2, Michael Wacha in Game 3, and Lance Lynn in Game 4.
Here are the Rangers and Blue Jays lineups for Game 1 of the ALDS in Toronto:
CF Delino DeShields
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Prince Fielder
1B Mike Napoli
LF Josh Hamilton
SS Elvis Andrus
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos
SP Yovani Gallardo
With left-hander David Price on the mound for Toronto the Rangers are going with Mike Napoli at first base over Mitch Moreland. Beyond that it’s a pretty standard lineup for Texas, or at least standard for what manager Jeff Banister used down the stretch once Josh Hamilton was healthy enough to play left field.
LF Ben Revere
3B Josh Donaldson
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Smoak
C Russell Martin
2B Ryan Goins
CF Kevin Pillar
SP David Price
After returning from the disabled list for the final weekend of the regular season Troy Tulowitzki is in the lineup and batting fifth. That allows Ryan Goins to play second base in place of the injured Devon Travis. Justin Smoak gets the nod over Chris Colabello at first base against a right-hander.
Houston made one unexpected change to the roster for the ALDS, leaving off veteran reliever Chad Qualls.
Qualls warmed up but never appeared in the Wild Card game win over the Yankees and during the regular season the 36-year-old right-hander logged 49 innings with a 4.38 ERA and 46/9 K/BB ratio. Qualls was on the Astros’ last playoff team in 2005.
Utility man Jonathan Villar has been bumped off the roster in favor of outfielder Preston Tucker, as the Astros opted for a good left-handed bat off the bench versus the Royals rather than Villar’s speed.