Mileur's State of the Nation Address

The Cardinals are down 3-1 in the NLCS and the Houston Astros are just one win away from a trip to the World Series. But trust me, it isn't over.

The St. Louis Cardinals have their backs against the wall in Houston, down three games to one in the NLCS.

But trust me Cardinal Nation, all they have to do is win Monday night in Houston, to get the series to return home to Busch Stadium, in St. Louis. Then all they have to do is, win back to back games against 20 game winner, Roy Oswalt and future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens and the Houston Astros.

Simple enough, right?

Perhaps. The first step will be somewhat of a challenge. St. Louis has dropped seven straight NLCS road games dating back to 2002. Where as the Houston Astros have won seven straight home playoff games.

For the Cardinals to break up these two streaks, they are sending their staff ace and Cy Young candidate, Chris Carpenter to the mound to face Houston's Andy Pettitte.

Chris Carpenter, who allowed just two runs and five hits over eight innings in a 5-3 victory in Game 1. He is 5-0 with a 1.91 ERA in six starts this season against the Astros.

Pettitte came into the NLCS with an eight-game winning streak that was snapped in Game 1, when he surrendered five runs and eight hits over six innings in a 5-3 loss, to give the Cardinals their first and only NLCS win to date.

Pettitte is 0-2 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts against the Cardinals this year, including his Game 1 appearance.

It promises to be another pitcher's duel with both team's offenses struggling to generate any run production.

In the first four games the Astros have scored a total of 13 runs, three more than the 10 runs, the Cardinals have scored in the NLCS.

Didn't Reggie Sanders drive in more runs than that himself in the National League Division Series?  (Answer: yes he did - 12 RBI)

Somehow the Astros have managed to turn that three run advantage into three wins, in spite of hitting just .065 with runners in scoring position.

It's not that the Cardinals' pitching that has let them down.  The Cardinals' series ERA is a combined 2.38 ERA over the first four games, good enough, you would think to have had this thing wrapped up and delivered to citizens of Cardinal Nation by now.

Starters Chris Carpenter and Mark Mulder lived up to expectations in their starts in games one and two and Matt Morris, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis all pitched as well, or better than expected by many fans, yet with the exception of Carpenter, they all failed to pick up a single win between them.

The Cardinals offense has all but disappeared. The big guns early on were, Albert Pujols, naturally, hitting .429 with 1 home run and three RBI.  Abraham Nunez was the only other hot bat, he had 4 hits in 10 at bats, before getting hurt in game three and having to leave the game with an injury.

The rest of the lineup has been held at bay by Houston's pitching staff. David Eckstein is hitting just .154, Larry Walker is hitting .167. Reggie Sanders cooling off after the National League Division Series and his 12 RBI, is hitting a mere .200 in the NLCS and has driven in only two runs. Slim Jim Edmonds is hitting .231.  Mark Grudzielanek is hitting just .133 and Yadier Molina is one of the few bright spots at the plate, he's hitting .286 to include a couple of doubles, which is more than you would expect from him.

So the Cardinals will try to avoid suffering their fourth loss in a row, Monday night, something that never did happen to the defending National League Champions, during the regular season this year.

The Cardinals down 3-1, will have to come back and beat the Astros three games in a row.

It wouldn't be the first time the Redbirds were able to string three victories together.  The Cardinals beat the Astros three games in a row in July, at home.

Granted, the Cardinals have had their hands full recently with the Astros.  Combined with the five games they played Houston in September, the Cardinals are 3-6 over the last nine games with the Astros.

For the Cardinals, who won a 100 games during the regular season, winning three games in a row, doesn't seem like much to ask from a team that managed to do just that, 12 times during the regular season.

If the Cardinals can pick up a win in Houston Monday night, their chances still look good to return to the World Series to face the American League Champions, the Chicago White Sox.

A day off Tuesday will help give injured Cardinals, Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders and Abraham Nunez some much needed time off to get ready for game six and seven.

Clearly their bats are needed if the Cards are going to generate enough offense to win three straight games against the Wild Card team, the Astros.  ( I refuse to refer to the Wild Card team as the Wild Card Champions. What is up with that?)

Coming up;
Game 5: at HOU -
Mon, Oct 17 - 8:05 pm EDT
C. Carpenter vs. A. Pettitte 
*Game 6: at STL
Wed, Oct 19 - 8:05 pm EDT
R. Oswalt vs. M. Mulder 
*Game 7: at STL
Thu, Oct 20 - 8:05 pm EDT
R. Clemens vs. M. Morris 
* - If necessary

If the Astros can get past Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals, Monday night, they will be making their first World Series appearance in the franchise's 44-year history.

Looking back, Houston won all three home games in last year's NLCS, before losing Games 6 and 7 in St. Louis. If the Astros can win Monday and sweep all three home games, they will bring the World Series to Texas for the first time.

Standing in the way, the best team in baseball in 2005, the St. Louis Cardinals. A win Monday and a repeat of wins in Game 6 and 7, like last season at Busch Stadium and there you have it.  It isn't over.



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