Daily Grind 10.12

Yogi Berra once famously said, ‘It ain’t over till its over’. So Game 5 it is.

The Cardinals’ quiet bats paired with a horrendous strike zone gave Washington Game 4 of the NLDS. The Nats won a league best 97 games, thanks in part to a 51-30 record at Nationals Park. It’s not an easy place to play, especially when HP umpire Jim Joyce has a strike zone the size of China. The Cardinals went just 38-43 on the road, but are 2-1 wearing the grey jerseys this postseason.

There should be a confident feeling about tonight. In part because Adam Wainwright is pitching, in part because the team has been in this situation before, and because I can’t fathom this lineup getting shut down three times in a five game set.

Jon Jay’s .224 average on the road compared to .384 at home is mind-boggling. He is 4-20 (.200) in the postseason. Last year he hit just .181 in 55 postseason AB’s. I’d put Skip Schumaker in CF tonight, though Mike Matheny won’t do it.

Nothing has come easy in 2012. Why should it? Back-to-back World Series titles have been accomplished only 14 times by 7 different teams (A’s, Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Reds). Just because the month change doesn’t mean a teams pattern varies. Put simply, the Cardinals have had these W.T.F. games all year, and why would a berth to the NLCS come any easier?

If things were easy…
Rafael Furcal would hit leadoff tonight.
Lance Berkman would hit cleanup.
Fernando Salas and Mark Rzepczynski would give Matheny shut down options out of the bullpen.

It’s wishful thinking to script an easy route to glory. After all, the 2011 run should remind us of that.

Look, Jayson Werth configured a 8-pitch at bat into a game winning homer. He finally did something to back his 7-year $126 million contract. Good going … Werth looked like Darwin Barney (Cubs) celebrating around the bases.

Tonight has a similar feel to Game 5 last year in Philadelphia. Two stud pitchers, a quirky NL East ballpark, and a packed house soon to weep when the visitors pop champagne.

Yadier Molina has been quiet, just 2-18 (.111) in five postseason games. Let’s just say…look out.

Hooking The ‘Fins

Miami presents a nice challenge for the Rams Sunday. Statistically, both teams are identical in almost every category. Defense, defense, and defense.

Miami hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 19 games, and rank 1st in the NFL in rushing defense (61.4 YPG). Teams are getting only 2.67 yards per rush, and have just 1 play over 10 yards from the line of scrimmage running the football. RB Steven Jackson will likely have an active role offensively with Danny Amendola on the shelf with a collarbone injury. The Rams offensive line needs to win the battle at the line of scrimmage. The pass protection has dramatically improved, but still too many broken rushing plays.

The Dolphins get after it. Miami has recorded 11 of its 15 sacks in the last two contests and intercepted six passes in the past three. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai is a monster. He just clogs the interior running lanes, and sets linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett up to make plays. 

As for the Rams…while teams have moved the football, timely turnovers and a stout pass rush has limited the damage. They rattled Kevin Kolb last week 9 times.

The Rams get another vulnerable rookie QB in Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has been picked off six times, though he’s coming off an efficient 17-of-26, 223-yard effort against the Bengals. The Dolphins could be without RB’s Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, leaving Tannehill susceptible.

The Rams seek their first road win since Week 10 last season against Cleveland, where they won a thrilling 13-12 embarrassment to the game of football.

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