In St. Louis, though, the Cardinals are trying to become the big surprise team of the year. Series tied one all, in their home ball park, and the power of the Rally Squirrel is behind them. The team is giving out Rally Squirrel towels, and various shirts and dolls have popped up. The one pictured here is called the "official" version by CBS in St. Louis. He's got his own Wiki page, too. Combined with Torty and, of course, Fredbird, this year's Cardinal team might be the most animal-mascot-laden team in history.
Will they be able to keep an awfully powerful Brewers team at bay, though? The Brewers were absolutely dreadful in Arizona last round. And through the year, they were markedly better in Miller Park than on the road. Combine that with the Cards stealing the last game, and things seem to bode well for St. Louis. Also throw in Carpenter is starting tonight, and I might be worried if I were a Brewer fan.* On the other hand, you know Milwaukee is going to score runs with those hitters, and if there's any pitcher on the staff who can get one on the road, it's Yovani Gallardo. He's gone eight and six innings in his postseason starts this year and given up all of two runs and ten hits. He's also paired his three walks with fourteen strikeouts. Averaging a strikeout an inning isn't too shabby. He's got better numbers through this postseason than he did in 2008, and he only pitched seven innings then.
*Presumably I am, but actually watching the games, I have a hard time really picking a favorite. I'm really happy either way.
To pick a winner, though, I'm going to have to go with the Cards tonight. Carpenter is darned good. I know, his first start against Philly didn't go so well. Three innings, four runs, three walks, only two strikeouts. Actually, over three innings, two strikeouts isn't bad, but the rest wasn't so great. But it should also be noted that the Cardinals messed around and won that game. Then the CC that's still in the playoffs got to lock horns with arguably the best pitcher of this generation (and former teammate) Roy Halladay. All Carpenter did was throw a complete game shut out, giving up only three hits.* I've got a feeling he's going to repeat that sort of performance. I don't know if I'm ready to pick St. Louis for the series just yet, but I'm picking them tonight.
*Halladay, it should be noted, only gave up one run in eight innings, which turned out to be the only run of the game. Not too bad himself, but it doesn't matter if your team doesn't score a single run.
As of today, I'm still picking the Rangers over either of these teams, but if the Cardinals can ride their status as the hottest team in baseball all the way to another World Championship, they would break an ugly pattern, as shown below. Sadly, it's much better than the Cubs' pattern.