Chris Carpenter is starting Game 7 on short rest

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UPDATE: It’s official, Carpenter is starting on short rest.

Here’s Tony La Russa’s rather simple explanation, via R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press:

“He’s the guy our club wants to have out there, and he’s ready to take it. Plain and simple. He’s our guy.”

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Tony La Russa might wait until the last possible moment to officially announce tonight’s Game 7 starter, but Matthew Leach of MLB.com reports that the Cardinals will turn to Chris Carpenter on short rest.

Leach tweeted the following shortly after emerging from the Cardinals’ clubhouse last night:

Was told by someone who would most definitely know: “You know who’s starting tomorrow.”

Kyle Lohse has been the scheduled Game 7 starter and Jake Westbrook or Edwin Jackson are other options, but Wednesday night’s rainout pushed everything back by one day and allows La Russa to turn to Carpenter on three days’ rest.

Carpenter had never started on short rest during his entire career until Game 1 of the NLDS versus the Phillies. And he struggled, allowing four runs in three innings while walking three and striking out two. Since then he’s 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts, including a complete-game shutout against Philadelphia in his follow-up to the short-rest outing.

Generally speaking pitchers starting on short rest have a pretty terrible playoff track record during the past decade or so and Carpenter making just one (poor) short-rest start in 14 seasons as a big leaguer makes him a big question mark, but if he wants the ball and the alternatives are Lohse, Jackson, or Westbrook it’s not hard to see why La Russa would put the entire season in the hands of his ace.

Battle of the Aces: Max Scherzer takes on Clayton Kershaw tonight

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I hope you don’t have any plans tonight at around 10PM Eastern time, because that’s when we get a pitching matchup for the ages as Max Scherzer will take on Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium. When they meet tonight it will be the first time two pitchers with three or more Cy Young Awards have matched up since 2006. That year, and in 2005 and 2000, Roger Clemens faced Greg Maddux. In 2001 Clemens faced Pedro Martinez.

Kershaw won his hardware in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with an MVP award in 2014 to boot. Scherzer collected trophies in 2013, 2016 and 2017. Each has started the 2018 season in Cy Young form. Kershaw is 1-2, but that record is due to poor run support. He has a 1.73 ERA and has struck out 31 batters and has walked only three in 26 innings. Scherzer is 3-1 with a 1.33 ERA and a whopping 38 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 27 innings.

This will be the third time that Kershaw and Scherzer faced each other if you include the playoffs. The first meeting was a decade ago when both were rookies. They most recently faced off in Game 1 of the 2016 NLDS, way back when Scherzer only had one Cy Young Award to his credit. Kershaw beat Scherzer in that playoff game and the Dodgers beat Scherzer’s teams in the two regular season matchups, with neither guy setting the world on fire. As so often happens in baseball, the hype hasn’t been matched by reality.

Still, there’s always a chance it will. And even if, in the end, this turns into a slugfest, the first couple of innings should at least give us some hope of something good. I’ll be watching.