Now that the Cardinals have all but clinched their division title, manager Tony La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan can begin mapping out their playoff rotation.
It would be astonishing if Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Joel Pineiro don't pitch the first three games of the playoffs, in that order, no matter the opponent. But the fourth spot, if one is needed in the first round, could be up for grabs.
John Smoltz has a 15-4 postseason
record, including 7-0 in the division series. He was signed, in theory, as a
late-inning reliever when
But Smoltz has been so impressive in six starts for the Cardinals -- he has a 3.18 ERA and has fanned 37 while walking only four -- that he might be the No. 4 starter in the playoffs.
However, if Kyle Lohse does well in his next two starts -- Sunday and Oct. 3 -- he could work his way back into the picture. The Cardinals expected him to be a part of any postseason rotation when they re-signed him after last season. But Smoltz may have leaped ahead of Lohse, who has been bothered by an assortment of injuries this season.
If Smoltz isn't the No. 4, he would go to the bullpen, where he used to be a prime closer. Lohse, on the other hand, has pitched very little in relief.
Notes and Quotes
--The Cardinals have five relievers who all have gained four victories: LHP Trever Miller and RHPs Ryan Franklin, Kyle McClellan, Blake Hawksworth and Jason Motte. Neither Miller nor Hawksworth has lost a game.
--The Cardinals clearly like to play at night. They are 62-37 in night games and only 27-27 in day games.
--RF Ryan Ludwick became the first Cardinals player to reach 100 strikeouts, fanning in the first inning Wednesday. OF Rick Ankiel, who struck out as a pinch hitter, has fanned only seven fewer times in 101 fewer at-bats.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4-0 -- Records for both LHP Trever Miller and RHP Blake Hawksworth. Their ERAs through Sept. 18 were 1.77 and 2.36, respectively.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's better to do
it right now than at the end of this month, when we're going into something that
hopefully we're going into." -- RHP Ryan
--SS Brendan Ryan, who got three
days off (including Thursday's off day) to rest the tender pinkie finger on his
left hand, should be ready for duty Friday in
--LF Matt Holliday returns this
weekend to Coors Field, where he has enjoyed the most success in his career.
Holliday is a career .357 hitter with 84 home runs as a
--1B Albert Pujols leads the Cardinals in most categories, including being tied for the stolen-base lead with Brendan Ryan at 14.
SS Brendan Ryan (sore left pinkie) did not play Sept. 22-23. He is day-to-day.
3B Troy Glaus (pulled left oblique muscle) has not played since Sept. 12. He is out indefinitely.