Recently, ESPN moved today’s home finale with the Astros to the Sunday Night Baseball slot.  Whether that decision was made during the Cardinals’ push for October at the beginning of the month or not, it should be a fact used in the “ESPN hates the Cardinals” argument.

The Cardinals, at best, would have been looking like a .500 team at that time the decision was made.  Maybe they had a chance in the division, but anyone looking at them would have been hard pressed to think they could keep it up.  And yet ESPN, in the middle of exciting pennant races, decides to feature them in their weekly signature game, the last one of the 2007 season.

I think it’s a nod to the fact that they are the defending champs, even if it’s just for another month.  It’s a rivalry with Houston that has so often produced great games and been important baseball.  Plus you have the whole “last home game for LaRussa?” storyline that you can carry through if you want.  Even if the Cardinals don’t get the press some teams do, I think the lack of respect line is really tired and played out.  If you want no respect, there are other teams that have a better claim.

Roy Oswalt’s going tonight.  That’s about as much of a guarantee of a Cardinal loss as you can get, especially when it is coupled with the ragtag, piecemeal lineup that LaRussa is forced to put out there.

I do like seeing LaRussa doing his best to get Pujols to that 100 RBI mark.  The runs, well, they aren’t going to happen with that calf injury, but AP sits just 2 RBI shy of continuing his streak.  When the bases were loaded with Kelly Stinnett up last night, I thought, “This would be the time to pinch-hit Pujols if you are serious about getting him some RBI” and, sure enough, there he came.  A solid single off of old teammate Woody Williams, two runs score and he’s done for the night.

LaRussa has experience in these kind of matters.  I remember in ’01 (I think it was) when he would do the same thing with McGwire.  Hold him back until he could pinch-hit in the best situation he could and hope he hit a home run because he couldn’t run the bases.  I expect more situations like a man on third, no outs, fly ball scores him for Pujols to come into for the rest of the week.

What I also like is that you know there is no way Pujols has asked for this, or is pressing Tony to get him in there.  It’s all about LaRussa’s respect for one of the best players he’s ever seen.  If it is the last week of the LaRussa tenure,  he’s going out his way.

I kinda expect to see Pujols in the lineup tonight.  I think he’ll want to be out there for the fans, since it is the last home game.  We’ll see if that’s possible or not, though.


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