ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals still have to get through Game 6 today to get to a Game 7, and that won't happen unless somebody batting behind Albert Pujols takes advantage of the opportunities generated by Rangers manager Ron Washington's decision to pitch around The Machine. Lance Berkman will get the first chance tonight, now that he has been moved to the cleanup spot.
But if the Cardinals force a Game 7, this will set up a war of Old School and New School, of gut feeling versus statistical data.
Cards manager Tony La Russa could pick Kyle Lohse to start Game 7, or Jake Westbrook, whose sinker was excellent in his relief appearance earlier in this series. But he would have the option of choosing ace Chris Carpenter to start Game 7, and everything about that would probably feel right to La Russa -- the best gut call. Carpenter is a team leader, a staff leader, a big hoss of a guy who has already told La Russa that he is available. Translated: Carpenter wants the ball. And in his career, Carpenter is 6-0 with a 2.03 ERA in postseason starts in St. Louis.
But the numbers say this: Picking Carpenter would be folly.
History has demonstrated definitively that starters working on short rest do not fare well in the postseason, with a few exceptions, like a young Josh Beckett shutting down the Yankees in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series.
Carpenter is not young -- he's 36, having been born during the Ford Administration, and he has thrown a staggering 267.1 innings this year, with his work in the regular season and postseason. He's never thrown that many innings in any year of his life. He's thrown about 4,000 pitches this year. He says his elbow is fine; earlier in the playoffs, he did seek some kind of treatment.
Carpenter has made one start on three days' rest in his professional career, in his first outing of the postseason, and it was his worst outing in the last couple of months.
All the hard information available to Tony La Russa weighs heavily against starting Carpenter on short rest. All the gut feeling will be in favor of picking Carpenter, and giving the ball to the guy you trust the most.
It's a fascinating choice, and one the Cardinals would have to earn the right to have, by winning Game 6.
Washington, by the way, could not have been more forceful in reiterating that Matt Harrison will be his Game 7 starter, if necessary, rather than Derek Holland. "Because Harrison is my Game 7 pitcher," Washington said. "Harrison has been a big part of this team all year. I am not changing the things that I've been doing all year. That's why we are where we are, and that's why I'm saying Harrison."
Baseball's postseason has been great, writes Sam Mellinger. Totally agree, and it started with that incredible run-up at the end of the regular season.
From ESPN Stats & Information, about Colby Lewis: he is one of five pitchers to allow two runs or fewer in six of his first seven career postseason starts (Curt Schilling, Sandy Koufax, Orlando Hernandez, Chief Bender); the only one that allowed two runs or fewer in seven of first eight starts is Curt Schilling.
From Elias: Lewis has limited opponents to a .109 batting average (5-for-46) with runners on base, and .091 (2-for-22) with runners in scoring position, during his postseason career.
From Elias: Tony La Russa must lead the Cardinals to two consecutive victories to avoid becoming the first manager to lose the clinching game of four World Series on his home field. In 1988, the Athletics lost in five games to the Dodgers, with Game 5 at the Oakland Coliseum; in 1990, the Athletics were swept by the Reds, with Game 4 in Oakland; in 2004, the Cardinals lost all four games to the Red Sox, with Game 4 at Busch Stadium.
From Elias: There have been 36 pitching changes in the 2011 World Series (20 by the Cardinals and 16 by the Rangers). It's the most through the first five games of any World Series. The most pitching changes made in a World Series of any length is 46 in the seven-game Series in 2002 (Giants 26, Angels 20).
From Elias: The Rangers are in their 51st season, spanning 11 years as the Washington Senators (1961-71) and 40 years in Texas (1972-2011). The Rangers and the Minnesota Vikings are tied for the most seasons played by any franchise -- in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB -- that has never won a championship (a Super Bowl, pre-Super Bowl AFL or NFL title, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup or World Series).
• Frank McCourt may finally be coming to grips with the financial realities that seem to face him -- the stage seems to be set for a possible sale of the Dodgers, writes Bill Shaikin.
• The Nationals are waiting until the end of the World Series to make the hiring of Davey Johnson official.
This is not meant as a knock on the Nationals, or the Cubs, or the Red Sox, or the Padres, or any of the other teams that have made hires in the last few years. But it's evident that teams take the commissioner's insistence that they interview and consider minority candidates much less seriously than they did five or eight years ago. The teams know it; the potential candidates know it.
"I'd like to interview, but I don't want to do it if it's just for show," said an African-American who has been in the sport for years. "I'd like to be taken seriously. I think in a lot of cases, the teams have already made up their minds before they talk to anybody."
It can cut both ways. The Marlins didn't go through an exhaustive interview process before locking in on Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen before hiring him as their manager. But the commissioner's office either needs to enforce its version of the Rooney Rule, or eliminate it altogether, if Bud Selig believes sufficient progress has been made in the hiring of minorities.
The Cubs have adopted the 1 percent solution, writes Rick Telander.
Josh Byrnes is taking over the Padres.
Dings and dents
3. A Dodgers pitcher is having elbow surgery, as Dylan Hernandez writes.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Kirkland Crawford addresses the question of whether the Tigers should pursue a second baseman.
2. There are some standout World Series performers headed for free agency, writes Ron Blum.
3. Andrew Friedman has more to give to the Rays, writes John Romano. I would say this: If the Cubs had aggressively pursued him in the way they pursued Theo Epstein, I think Friedman would have strongly considered it -- more seriously than he considered the Astros or Angels jobs.
4. The Yankees have just about wrapped up their deal with Brian Cashman.
6. The Yankees are wary of C.J. Wilson at a high price, writes Bob Klapisch. I know of at least three teams that will tone down their interest in the left-hander in large part because of what they have seen this October -- the issues of fastball command. "That doesn't get better as a pitcher gets older," said one scout. "It gets worse."
7. The Orioles' prolonged GM search is turning up quality options.
8. Ben Cherington's first job is to hire a manager, writes Peter Abraham.
9. The Mariners' coaching staff will be unchanged.
• Rustin Dodd writes about Dave Eiland's biggest challenge as he takes over the Royals' pitching staff.
• Nobody was willing to bid $1 million for the Buckner ball.
• Among the latest items donated for BattingForVermont.com charity to benefit Vermont farmers devastated by the Hurricane Irene flooding: Signed jerseys from Dustin Pedroia, David Wright and Shane Victorino, and the use of Scott Boras' 16-person suite at Dodger Stadium for a game next season.
And today will be better than yesterday.