Mark Kotsay, Nick Punto

That was really the best the NL has to offer?


No juggernauts here.

The Cardinals just beat the Brewers in a six-game series despite not having any one of their starters pitch more than five innings. There simply wasn’t a quality start in the bunch.

But then, maybe beat is the wrong word. Unless one wants to apply to what the Brewers did to themselves. Seven errors in the final two games of the series. Everyone knew defense was Milwaukee’s weak link, but it never figured to manifest itself so obviously. Besides the seven errors, there were at least a half-dozen plays that should have been made and weren’t in the team’s final two losses.

So, the NL Central-only NLCS was a bust. As probably should have been anticipated given it’s status as baseball’s worst division. Those six teams combined to go 226-270 outside of the division this year, a .456 winning percentage.

At least these Cardinals are better than their last World Series team. In 2006, the Cards won the Central with an 83-78 record, edged the Mets in seven games in the NLCS and then took down the Tigers in five games in the World Series.

Still, it figures to be a more difficult assignment this time around. The Rangers aren’t going to fumble the ball around like those Tigers (eight errors in five games) or the Brewers did. They also have a bullpen that can match the Cardinals’ and greater depth in the lineup, even in games without the DH.

The Cardinals deserve all kinds of credit for what they’ve done so far. Overcoming a 10 1/2-game deficit to make it to October, taking out the heavy favorites in the Phillies in five games in the NLDS and then surviving a series against the Brewers in which their starters gave them next to nothing. They’re battlers alright.

Unfortunately, they’re battlers who are probably going to get battered if they don’t get a whole lot more from Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson this week.

There’s no one to blame in Yankees’ loss

Joe Girardi

You’re going to boo All-Star Brett Gardner for striking out against a Cy Young contender?

You’re going to bash Alex Rodriguez for going hitless in another postseason game, three years after his last one?

Maybe you’d prefer to put it all on Masahiro Tanaka for giving up two solo homers to a lineup full of 20-homer guys?

The truth is that the Yankees were supposed to lose tonight. They were facing an outstanding left-hander with their forever-lefty-heavy lineup, and they simply didn’t have anyone pitching like an ace to set themselves up nicely for a one-game, winner-take-all showdown. The 3-0 result… well, that’s how this was supposed to go down.

It didn’t necessarily mean it would; what fun would it be if the better team always won? And the Astros might not even be a better team than the Yankees. However, the Astros with Dallas Keuchel on the mound were certainly a better team than the Yankees with whoever they picked to throw.

I just don’t see where it’s worth putting any blame tonight. Joe Girardi? He could have started John Ryan Murphy over Brian McCann against the tough lefty, but he wasn’t willing to risk Tanaka losing his comfort zone by using a backup catcher.

The front office could have added more talent, perhaps outbidding the Blue Jays for David Price or the Royals for Johnny Cueto, and set themselves up better for the postseason. However, that would have cost them Luis Severino and/or Greg Bird, both of whom went on to play key roles as the Yankees secured the wild card. Would it really have been worth it? I don’t think so.

Tanaka gave the Yankees what they should have expected. Had Keuchel’s stuff been a little off on short rest, Tanaka’s performance would have kept the Yankees in the game.

Keuchel, though, was on his game from the first pitch. The Astros bullpen might have been a bit more vulnerable, and late at-bats from Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Rodriguez and McCann definitely left something to be desired. Still, on the whole, the lack of offense was quite a team effort.

The Yankees got beat by a better team tonight.  I’m not sure the Astros would have been better in Games 2-7 in a longer series, but they had everything in their favor in this one.

Keuchel, Astros cruise past Yankees in AL Wild Card Game

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Dallas Keuchel faced the Yankees two times during the regular season and was fantastic in each outing, striking out 12 in a complete-game shutout on June 25 and whiffing nine batters over seven scoreless frames on August 25.

The 2015 Cy  Young Award candidate continued that trend in Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one walk over six innings of scoreless ball as the Astros earned a 3-0 win and advanced to a best-of-five ALDS with the top-seeded Royals.

Keuchel was working on three days of rest but didn’t show very many signs of fatigue, whiffing seven and needing only 87 pitches to get through six. He sure looked like he could have gone an inning longer, but Astros manager A.J. Hinch decided to turn the game over to his bullpen and they added three more big zeroes to the scoreboard at a very loud then very boo-heavy Yankee Stadium. Tony Sipp worked around some early jitters to throw a scoreless seventh, Will Harris kept the Yankees off the bases entirely in a scoreless eighth, and closer Luke Gregerson went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the ninth.

Impending free agent outfielder Colby Rasmus provided the first burst of offense for the Astros in the top of the second inning with a leadoff homer against Masahiro Tanaka. And then deadline acquisition Carlos Gomez, who missed a bunch of time down the stretch with an intercostal strain, got to Tanaka for another solo shot in the top of the fourth. Houston scored its third run on a Jose Altuve RBI single in the top of the seventh.

This is a young, talented Astros team with an ace at the head of its rotation.

Kansas City could have a problem.