.500 At Last

Hard to believe that this team hasn’t had an equal number of wins and losses since the 12th game of the year. It’s been a long year, when they’ve been left for dead so many times, but here we are just over a month from the finish line, and not only to they return to .500 (which would be a minor achievement no matter what the standings), but they move into second place. Granted, I’d rather be in third place and one game out than second and two out, but it’s still nice to have only one team ahead of them.

I plan to continue to give Braden Looper a hard time, because maybe if I do he’ll keep throwing games like he did last night. As I talked about yesterday, I really didn’t know what to expect out of him, but a traditional quality start (3 runs in 6 innings) would have been great in my book. To get seven scoreless out of him, at a time when we will need to be conserving the bullpen anyway–just priceless. To be able to step up and produce these kind of games this late in the season after being a reliever for so long, well, I find that amazingly impressive. I still don’t trust him and I’d consider resting him more once Mark Mulder makes the team, but he’s doing his best to make that a tough decision and you have to respect that.

It was nice to see Rick Ankiel get three hits last night. The more singles and doubles he gets, the more I think he can make it as a regular outfielder in the coming years. If he was just HR or nothing, well, those kind of guys get run out of the league pretty quickly (unless they are real big HR hitters, like Adam Dunn). I was really hoping that he’d get a hit his last time up, because having a four-hit game would be really big for him, I think. Still, he’s hitting over .300, playing pretty good defense, and showing power. And when you think that he’s basically learning this at the major league level, it’s obvious to see the talent that Walt Jocketty didn’t want to give up on. I’m looking forward to seeing him play on a regular basis next year, though the movie script would be for him to make an impact on the same postseason stage that the demons that unraveled him before first appeared.

Tonight is a tough matchup, as one of our recent favorites around these parts, the resurgent Kip Wells, takes on another stud in Roy Oswalt. We’ve rehashed Kip a number of times, and we know that, save the last outing, he’s been pretty spectacular down the stretch with an ERA in the low 2.00 range. Roy Oswalt is always a tough pitcher to face, so let’s mine the stats and see if there are any glimmers of hope.

On the face of it, not so much. He’s got a 2.17 ERA at home, a 1.46 ERA in August and a 1.13 ERA against the Cardinals in 2007. ERA doesn’t tell us everything, right? I think it gives us a darn good story there, though. His BAA/OPSA at home is .241/.634, which is very impressive when you consider that bandbox they play in. In the last three years, he has a 3.12 ERA against the Birds, though only a 5-3 record, so he can be beaten, as they’ve hit him for a .267 average over that span.

It’s not going to be the blowout last night was, for sure. Here’s the history of Oswalt vs. Cardinal batters. As you can see, Eckstein has hit him at the best clip (of anyone with an significant AB), while Pujols has a nice .290 average with 3 HR. Unfortunately, the averages plummet from there, though Edmonds and Duncan (wasn’t it nice to finally see him go deep again!) have home runs against him.

If the Cards play like they’ve been playing, they may pull tonight’s game out, but it’s going to be a battle. Hopefully they can get Oswalt’s pitch count up and get into the bullpen early. And maybe the Brewers can get a lead and hold on to it tonight, moving the Cards ever closer to that top slot.

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