|Jeff Suppan||Brandon Backe|
16 - 10, 3.57
0 - 0, 8.44
So since Garner is looking for hunches to play, how about starting Chavez? I mean, maybe it's the endorphin rush I'm still trying to work off from dumping all that After Death sauce into my lunchtime soup, or maybe it's just the three Guinness stouts, but I think you can make a case. Athough he had a single yesterday, and a double that led to a run in Game Two, Ausmus struck out twice yesterday, and hasn't yielded the starting slot at catcher since September 29. It might be a good time to get Brad some physical and mental rest before having to put forth the intensity required to catch Pettitte (and perhaps Oswalt) in the twin crucibles of Games Five and Six.
Although I remember Backe and Chavez having some trouble working together earlier in the season, the last time Backe and Chavez got the start, it worked out rather well. And although I'll be the first to admit that the sample size is small, Chavez is 2 for 3 against Suppan with an RBI double. And how hard must the glacially slow Chavez have hit the ball to end up with a double?
Ausmus by comparison, is only 6 for 29 against Suppan.
Vizcaino is 13 for 21 or something ridiculous like that vs. Suppan as well, but while maybe I'd use him first off the bench, I wouldn't necessarily give Viz the starting nod. Everett is on a five game postseason hitting streak, and is 4 for 9 against Suppan himself.
What do you think the odds are that Berkman and Ensberg don't get an RBI between them through three games of the NLCS, but Houston still leads? Careful inspection, however, of the composite box reveals the zeroes in the RBI column for our number three and number four hitters.
It can't last. Another hunch: we might need more than four runs today. And the most natural place from which they should flow is the heart of the Houston Astros order. The Cardinals will undoubtedly try to walk Berkman to get to Ensberg, who's hitting .100, and slugging .200 only because his one lonely hit was a double. And I'd take that, except Berkman hasn't yet been able to take a walk this series, either.
Lamb is 3 for 17 against Suppan, so look for the Great, Successful, Chris Burke Experiment in Center to end. Suppan didn't face the Astros in the regular season, so he never faced Taveras.
Given that Taveras' drag bunt first, slap at the ball second approach is at least somewhat unorthodox, I'll count that as a plus. Get Willy the start.
The Astros have hit .292 against Suppan, and Ensberg and Everett have homered against him.
The Cardinals hit .370 against Brandon Backe (playoff games excluded, I have to assume), and Pujols has hit three homers off him. Walker, Sanders, and Mabry have also gone yard off the excitable Backe.
Perhaps the greatest success of the Houston pitching staff this NLCS is that Pujols has not come up to bat with anyone on base since the first inning of Game Two. Backe, it looks like, will have to continue that.