That was really the best the NL has to offer?

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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.

In the playoffs, the Yankees’ weakness has become their strength

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Two weeks ago, when the playoffs began, the idea of “bullpenning” once again surfaced, this time with the Yankees as a focus. Because their starting pitching was believed to be a weakness — they had no obvious ace like a Dallas Keuchel or Corey Kluber — and their bullpen was a major strength, the idea of chaining relievers together starting from the first inning gained traction. The likes of Luis Severino, who struggled mightily in the AL Wild Card game, or Masahiro Tanaka (4.79 regular season ERA) couldn’t be relied upon in the postseason, the thought went.

That idea is no longer necessary for the Yankees because the starting rotation has become the club’s greatest strength. Tanaka fired seven shutout innings to help push the Yankees ahead of the Astros in the ALCS, three games to two. They are now one win away from reaching the World Series for the first time since 2009.

It hasn’t just been Tanaka. Since Game 3 of the ALDS, Yankees pitchers have made eight starts spanning 46 1/3 innings. They have allowed 10 runs (nine earned) on 25 hits and 12 walks with 45 strikeouts. That’s a 1.75 ERA with an 8.74 K/9 and 2.33 BB/9. In five of those eight starts, the starter went at least six innings, which has helped preserve the freshness and longevity of the bullpen.

Here’s the full list of performances for Yankee starters this postseason:

Game Starter IP H R ER BB SO HR
AL WC Luis Severino 1/3 4 3 3 1 0 2
ALDS 1 Sonny Gray 3 1/3 3 3 3 4 2 1
ALDS 2 CC Sabathia 5 1/3 3 4 2 3 5 0
ALDS 3 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 7 0
ALDS 4 Luis Severino 7 4 3 3 1 9 2
ALDS 5 CC Sabathia 4 1/3 5 2 2 0 9 0
ALCS 1 Masahiro Tanaka 6 4 2 2 1 3 0
ALCS 2 Luis Severino 4 2 1 1 2 0 1
ALCS 3 CC Sabathia 6 3 0 0 4 5 0
ALCS 4 Sonny Gray 5 1 2 1 2 4 0
ALCS 5 Masahiro Tanaka 7 3 0 0 1 8 0
TOTAL 55 1/3 35 20 17 20 52 6

In particular, if you hone in on the ALCS starts specifically, Yankee starters have pitched 28 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) on 13 hits and 10 walks with 20 strikeouts. That’s a 1.61 ERA.

While the Yankees’ biggest weakness has become a strength, the Astros’ biggest weakness — the bullpen — has become an even bigger weakness. This is why the Yankees, who won 10 fewer games than the Astros during the regular season, are one win away from reaching the World Series and the Astros are not.