Earlier today here at SqueezeSituation, you received a glimpse into the fate of the one remaining race of the America League – the Wild Card. It would only be fair to construct the National League counterpart – the surprising race between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves. The Braves looked like the Wild Card team all season – but like the Red Sox, have fallen into what could be a season-ending skid. The Cardinals on the other hand seemed out of it in August after some Milwaukee-led beatings, but have responded with sparkling 16-7 record in September. But this is baseball, and we’ve got to play it one game at a time…
St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia) @ Houston Astros (Wandy Rodriguez)
Garcia has quietly put together a great year, and Wandy Rodriguez has had pretty much the same season, but at 11-11 opposed to Garcia’s 13-7. It amazing what run support will do, isn’t it Tim Lincecum? In this matchup, we have to side with the hot hand – St. Louis. Too much for the ‘Cards to lose and too little for the Astros to care about.
Calling it: Cardinals pull off a nail-biter.
Philadelphia Phillies (Cliff Lee) @ Atlanta Braves (Randall Delgado)
If the Braves hadn’t fallen on their faces this September, it wouldn’t be such an uphill battle for them. However, the hill just gets steeper versus the continents best team through September – the Philadelphia Phillies. Though the Phitins have phaltered a bit in the past couple weeks, manager Charlie Manuel has vowed to not rest his stars versus in-contention teams. Randall Delgado has looked good so far, but he’ll have to beat Cliff Lee, who should be receiving much more Cy Young hype than he is.
Braves – 89-71
Cardinals – 89-71
St. Louis Cardinals (Jake Westbrook) @ Houston Astros (Henry Sosa)
After starting his career off slowly through Auagust, Henry Sosa has looked decent through September. Westbrook, aside from a flurry of walks in his past two starts, has been tough to hit this month. On most days this game is a push – evenly matched pitchers, anemic offences. However, this is a playoff run – and as long as Tony LaRussa doesn’t manage to criminally mismanage his team, I think the Cardinals playing with a little something extra might pull this one off.
Calling it: Slight edge to Jake Westbrook showing up big and holding off the National League’s worst team.
Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Oswalt) @ Atlanta Braves (Derek Lowe)
It isn’t getting any easier for the Braves. They’ll get Roy Oswalt Tuesday night and throw the dead arm of Derek Lowe out against them.Lowe has been atrocious all season, including a bludgeoning by Philadelphia in his last appearance against them. Oswalt’s results have been all over the place since returning from the DL – seemingly giving up five or zero runs in alternating appearances, but it shouldn’t take much to topple a Braves team that has looked so bad in the past weeks.
Calling it: Phillies take down the Braves, Derek Lowe can finally put 2011 behind him.
Braves – 89-72
Cardinals – 90-71
Going into the last day of the season, the surprising Cardinals have taken a one-game lead in the Wild Card. The season is up to the Braves to decide:
Philadelphia Phillies (Cole Hamels) @ Atlanta Braves (Tim Hudson)
Wednesday continues to be promising as the most exciting day of the season for Major League Baseball. Highlighting this will be the possible elimination games of Phillies/Braves and Cardinals/Astros. Hamels is 2-1 versus Atlanta this season and shows no signs of the softee he has seemingly been in years past. If not for outstanding years from Clayton Kershaw, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay; Cole would be a front-runner for NL cy Young. He’ll have the task of facing Tim Hudson – possibly being the last hope for Atlanta’s season. Hudson has been decent versus the Phils this season, going 1-1 with a 3.8 ERA over 20+IP. Despite being day-to-day, I have to go with Tim Hudson and the Braves in this one. Plus, I am dying for a play-in game.
Calling it: Pitcher duel – Hudson outlast Hamels and the Phillies pen, Braves win.
St. Louis Cardinals (Chris Carpenter) @ Houston Astros (Brett Myers)
Through September, Brett Myers has been excellent, sporting a 4-0 record and a 1.23 ERA. Carpenter’s stats looks good at a glance for September, but two losses against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh stand as outliers, giving up 10 runs combined in those outings. However, against Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Chicago in September, he has only given up 1 run through 24 innings. With the season on the line, Carpenter has to come up big versus Brett Myers and the Astros.
Calling it: Carpenter and Myers duel through 7+IP, Cardinals bullpens holds it, Astros bullpen mails it in. Cardinals take the wild card.
Braves – 90-72
Cardinals – 91-71
As much as I want to see a play-in game this season, it doesn’t seem likely. This assumption is based on the Cardinals sweeping the Astros, which earlier in the season seemed an easy task, but with the chip on the Astros shoulder and Brett Myers’ hot hand, will be a difficult task. The Phillies pitching, however, is just too strong for a Braves offense with a dormant Jason Heyward and mediocre pitching. So congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for winning the Wild Card, but I appologize in advance for the merciless beating they will take from the Phillies in round 1.