Winning ugly: The Cardinals topple the Brewers and win the NL Pennant


Maybe I should say “beating ugly.”  Because while there were all kinds of things in this game that were hard to look at, the Brewers looked way worse in losing 12-6 to the NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Three more errors tonight made for seven in Milwaukee’s final two games.  Fourteen more hits allowed means 24 in those two games.  The Brewers’ defense — never a strength — and their pitching suffered a complete meltdown in Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS.

From the moment Shaun Marcum blew up in Game 2 of the series, people were asking whether he’d get to pitch in Game 6.  The response back, however, was who else could Ron Roenicke use? The next arm on the staff was Chris Narveson and he’s no great shakes himself, so Marcum got the call. And he promptly gave up four runs on three hits.  From there it was Narveson, who was even worse, giving up five runs on four hits.  It seemed that either answer was the wrong one.  The Brewers — whose pitching was vastly improved in 2011 — simply didn’t have enough of it as the season came to a close.  A good arm like Marcum’s was simply too tired. And there was no one else to pick up the slack.

As for the Cardinals, it was the same old story:  a starting pitcher didn’t go deep but the bullpen stepped in and disabused the opposition of any notion that it could get itself back into the game.  Edwin Jackson had nothing on his pitches and his command was nonexistent. But then the pen gave Tony La Russa seven innings of three-hit, two-run ball.

And now we have a World Series matchup: Texas vs. St. Louis, beginning on Wednesday.  We’ll have a more in-depth preview of the festivities between now and then, but my knee jerk reaction: the Cardinals have a good bullpen pitching well and a lot of pop up and down that lineup.  But the Rangers have a better bullpen and more pop in theirs.  Although, I suppose someone could totally disrupt the script at this point and, say, leave a starting pitcher in for as many as five or six innings, but why go crazy now?

If we’ve learned anything this fall it’s that predicting baseball is for suckers.  But we still have our opinions, and this man’s opinion is that the Rangers seem like the stronger team.  We have two full baseball-free days in which to consider the matter, however.  For now: congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals: champions of the National League.

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.