I participated on a conference call this afternoon with some of the gang from Baseball Tonight. On the call were Karl Ravech, Orel Hershiser, and Curt Schilling. A lot of questions from the media, obviously, were about the Detroit Tigers, especially Justin Verlander. In any event, Cardinal fans are focused in on Game 7.
Orel Hershiser said that Carlos Beltran‘s “switch hitting ability helps the Cardinals a little bit.” Hershiser also said that “I think that St. Louis‑Detroit is probably a series that could end up having a little bit more offense in it, and then the San Francisco series, because of the ballpark, San Francisco‑ Detroit, because of the two ballparks, you could have a lower scoring series.”
“I don’t think either of those National League teams will have an advantage over the Tigers,” Curt Schilling said. “I think any advantage that either of those teams might have will be neutralized by the Tigers starting pitching. Scherzer, Fister, and Verlander right now pose significant problems regardless of the side of the plate these offenses are going to hit from. They’re all three throwing well.
“The big question will be the back end of the bullpen for the Tigers. Both bullpens on the National League clubs are rock solid. Obviously, I think St. Louis has probably one of the better power bullpens that we’ve ever seen when you’ve got a kid (Trevor Rosenthal), a minor league kid coming up into the sixth inning, throwing a hundred miles an hour as your leadoff in the bullpen, you’re sitting pretty deep.
“They have a lot of confidence, and clearly Mike is managing, I feel, a lot in the way that Tony did last year which was how quickly can I get to my bullpen, but not have it be too early? We saw what they did last year, and I think that they’re set‑up nicely this year. I think the hurdle for anybody in this World Series will be the Tigers pitching.”
“We talked about power pitching in October,” Schilling said. “I think there’s a time to hopefully help you understand why. If you think about what we’ve seen in the postseason and what we watch, there is no other environment where a walk is a rally, except October. Somebody gets a base runner on, and you immediately think of the potential.”
As of earlier this afternoon, the talk was that Matt Holliday would not be playing at all tonight. That has since changed.
“It’s going to start in the middle of the field, then we’ll see how they pitch in the beginning,” Baseball Tonight host Karl Ravech said. “Then we’ll see how the offense has performed. But I don’t think it’s going to come down to just having Holliday in the lineup or not. I think it’s going to come down to the two teams playing. We play 162 games and the championship is decided by one game. We’re playing a seven‑game series, and it’s just as close.”
“I’ve been in situations where someone’s been in or out of a lineup on both sides of the fence,” Curt Schilling said. “As a pitcher, it’s nice that I don’t have to prepare to pitch against Matt Holliday. But Matt’s not that tough to prepare for from the standpoint of he’s going to swing the bat.
“So from a game planning perspective with Matt Holliday in the lineup, the only thing I know is he’s a guy that I’m not going to walk. He’s a guy that’s going to put the ball in play. If I have the stuff to make him do thing that’s he doesn’t want to do, hit the ball weakly, I almost want him in there.
“Or if I’m the guy, I don’t know how Matt Cain feels so the biggest impact is going to be on what Matt Cain thinks it should be. But I can’t imagine after this game if the credit card nationals were to lose, and say if they had Matt Holliday, they would have won. The game just doesn’t work like that.
“I also think that players severely undervalue their impact on being in the lineup. One of the thing that’s Cal Ripken said during his streak was that he believed that his presence in the lineup was enough to warrant him doing whatever he could do to be in there. I’m not so sure I don’t feel the same way about Matt. Having Matt in that lineup, lengthens that lineup and make it’s tougher to face. Even a Matt Holliday at 80% is still better than 99% of the guys in the big leagues.
“I was one of the guys that was surprised last night when he didn’t pick them up. Because I know this: He’s playing for one of the toughest players that I ever played against in Mike Matheny. As a veteran player, if I wanted to be on the field, I would be on the field. I didn’t get the feeling that he was too intent on getting out there.
“I’m not calling him out. Obviously, his back has to be literally crippled in my mind if he’s not going to be walking out there tonight.”
Meanwhile, Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith offered some thoughts of his own on what the Cardinals need to do tonight. The Wizard tweeted to me that the Cardinals “must do all three things well, #1 shutting them down with Pitching, then find our offense and solid defense. Shut down the Panda.”
It’s going to be a long night.