The Cardinals bullpen was stellar yesterday in Game 3 of the NLCS, shutting down the Brewers’ offense after Chris Carpenter coughed up three runs early. But the Cardinals’ offense picked Carpenter up, scoring four runs in the first off an uncharacteristically wild Yovani Gallardo. The win gave the Cardinals a 2-1 advantage in the NLCS, and puts today’s Game 4 firmly in “must win” territory for the Milwaukee Brewers.
And so its not much of a surprise that LaRussa wants his proverbial boot on the team’s throat.
Ron Roenicke has learned a thing or two in the first three games, the first lesson being that you cannot pitch to Albert Pujols. Pujols is hitting an insane .636 in the NLCS, with 6 RBI and a home run. After doubling in a run yesterday, Pujols found himself all but taken out of the game by intentional walks (though he did nab second on a wild pitch). Hard for the one-man wrecking crew to do much damage if he doesn’t get an opportunity to swing.
Thankfully, Matt Holliday, batting fourth, wasn’t able to make the Brewers play for the walks, striking out both times to end the inning.
But old LaRussa is too crafty to let that situation play out again.
Today’s lineup features Pujols batting third, but instead of Matt Holliday following behind, its David Freese. Freese has been swinging an extraordinarily hot bat in the NLCS, to the tune of a .500 average with 2 home runs and 6 RBI. Yes, David Freese has actually outslugged Albert Pujols. So now when the Brewers walk Pujols, they’ll be bringing up perhaps the Cardinals’ hottest hitter. And then the Brewers will still have to deal with Matt Holliday, batting fifth. Lance Berkman gets the day off.
Tony LaRussa obviously doesn’t want this thing coming back to Milwaukee, and with good reason. The Brewers certainly have a shot to win tonight – of the eight position players in the Cardinals’ batting order, only Pujols (.286) and Freese (.353) have career averages greater than .260 against Milwaukee’s Randy Wolf) – but LaRussa’s move has made the road that much more difficult.