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10/20/06 12:17 AM ET
Cardinals-Tigers: Quick hits
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
Reasons the Cardinals will win: 1. The Cardinals should get two wins from Chris Carpenter, and if Jeff Weaver and Jeff Suppan can come up with a couple of quality starts between them -- and that is not unlikely judging from their recent performances -- it should be enough for the Cards to pull off the upset, especially if Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen can get hot. 2. Half of the Cardinals' starting eight -- Pujols (.500, 6-for-12 vs. the Tigers this season), Rolen (.455, 5-for-11), catcher Yadier Molina (.444, 4-for-9) and shortstop David Eckstein (.385, 5-for-13) -- ranked among the top 10 in batting vs. Detroit in Interleague games this season (minimum nine at-bats). And all of that hitting came during a three-game series at Comerica Park in June. 3. As Placido Polanco goes, so usually go the Tigers, and that could be good news for St. Louis as Polanco is only a .156 (14-for-90) career hitter against his former team. Achilles' heel: The back of the St. Louis rotation. Beyond Carpenter and Suppan, the rest of the rotation has been inconsistent at best. If Carpenter and Suppan don't provide quality starts each time out in the series, that will put all the more pressure on the rest of the staff, as well as the bullpen. Key matchup: The Cardinals' right-handed power against the Tigers' right-handers. Pujols, Rolen, former Tiger Juan Encarnacion and Preston Wilson hit lefties well, though they will have a tougher time than usual against Detroit southpaws Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, Jamie Walker and Wilfredo Ledezma. But the real test for the Cardinals boppers will be how they fare against right-handers Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman, because when the Cardinals quartet has had problems, it has usually come against hard-throwing right-handers with good-movement fastballs. Dark horse: Jim Edmonds. Entering this postseason, Edmonds was a career .307 hitter in the playoffs, not counting his 1-for-15 performance against Boston in the 2004 World Series. Edmonds has had a disappointing season that was interrupted by injury, but he remains a dangerous hitter who is capable of going on the kind of hitting binge that can carry a team. If he gets hot, look out. Reasons the Tigers will win: 1. The Tigers, who had the best team ERA in the Major Leagues, have gone from sliding into the playoffs in a funk to the hottest team in the postseason, with seven consecutive victories. They are well-rested and ready to continue their run (and the American League's recent dominance in the World Series) against the Cardinals. 2. The home-field advantage combined with Detroit's deeper and more rested pitching staff will help the Tigers earn their first World Series crown since 1984. Detroit was 15-3 in Interleague Play this year and swept the Cardinals in a three-game series at Comerica Park. 3. The Tigers offense, which scored 22 runs and had a team OPS of .856 in four games against a very good Oakland pitching staff, will continue to rack up runs against a vulnerable St. Louis staff. Achilles' heel: Detroit's setup situation. Right-hander Fernando Rodney and lefty Walker did not give up a run in the AL Championship Series, but Joel Zumaya was injured and gave up a run in his only inning, and Jason Grilli struggled to throw strikes. With Detroit's starters covering 24 1/3 of the 36 innings pitched by the Tigers in the ALCS, it wasn't a huge factor, but if the bullpen is called on more often in the World Series, it could be, especially if Zumaya is not up to his usual standard of excellence. Key matchup: Curtis Granderson vs. the St. Louis pitching staff. Granderson has been improving as the season has progressed and the Tigers' leadoff man played extremely well in the three-game sweep of St. Louis back in June, hitting .538 (7-for-13). How well Granderson disrupts the Cardinals pitchers will be a key in the series. Dark horse: Ivan Rodriguez hit only .125 in the ALCS, the lowest batting average for the series among any of the Tigers starters, but Pudge has hit well against St. Louis in the past. He was 2-for-6 with a double and an RBI in the three-game sweep of the Cardinals at Comerica Park back in June, and lifetime, Rodriguez is a .360 hitter (9-for-25) against St. Louis. The winner: Detroit in five.
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.