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Know Your Enemy 2005: Weeks 18 & 19
by Derek Smart
I wish I had a good story for why this feature didn't appear last week - something about three-headed devil dogs rising from a fissure in the earth, impeding my progress toward internet access with the rivers of acid drool flowing from their scarred black jowls - but the truth is disappointingly vanilla. I forgot.
Looks like I remembered this week, and barring any further distractions on the order of eight game losing streaks, I likely will for the rest of the year. So on to it, then!
St. Louis Cardinals
For a while there it seemed like the Cardinals would never miss the likes of Rolen and Walker. However, this recent fourteen game stretch where Abraham Nunez is hitting .224/.296/.265 and John Rodriguez is posting a .245/.302/.286 line put the lie to that idea. There's a reason these guys aren't starters, and after playing over their heads for a spell, they're starting to show exactly why.
Apparently, juggernauts occasionally tread water. Had it not been for Jason Lane and Morgan Ensberg (if Tony Clark wasn't busy doing a Freaky Friday with Barry Bonds, Ensberg would be a shoo-in for Comeback Player of the Year), the Astros might have had no offense during these two weeks.
True, Houston was able to score enough to get Roger Clemens victories in two out of the three games he pitched, but when you throw 22 innings of ball and allow only one earned run and two total runs, you should get the three W's you deserve.
Take away Geoff Jenkins and Rickie Weeks, and you've got an offense over the last twelve games that no jury in the world would fail to convict of gross negligence. Add in that Victor Santos was the best of your three rotational lefties with a 5.40 ERA, and it's easy to see why The Crew slipped a bit.
Well, well, look who had the best two weeks in the division. It's less impressive than it looks, though, as five of the seven victories came this week against clubs in mid-swoon. Still, wins are wins, and if there's an extra bright spot to be found it's that not a single one of the Reds' starters posted an ERA over 5 during the span. Of course, that that's a demonstrable positive says something else altogether.
Most of the time when a team scores 84 runs in 13 games they'll have a record for the span that's comfortably over the .500 mark. But the Pirates aren't most teams, and while they managed to cross the plate a ton themselves, they sent the opposition scurrying home more often than they might have liked, allowing 73 members of the opposition to tally.
Of course, the strangest thing might be that, after displaying all that offensive prowess, the game they're most likely to remember is the one where they were shut out for eight innings by Roger Clemens before Jack Wilson won it with a solo homer off Brad Lidge in the ninth. Score 84 runs in 13 games and the one you think about is the 1-0 victory. That's baseball, folks.