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Know Your Enemy 2005: Weeks 20 & 21
by Derek Smart
So, it seems I skipped a week. Again.
I'm all out of excuses, so let's just get down to business.
St. Louis Cardinals
They may be limping down the stretch, but they sure have a funny way of showing it. Still, over the next few days activity on Cardinal cell phones may have as much to do with their postseason chances as anything that happens on the field.
Even with all of their injuries this is still a good team, but without at least one more bat, this is a club that is one bad start away from not making it to their second straight World Series.
Sunday's 1-0 loss was the eighth game this season where the Astros were shut out with Roger Clemens on the hill. In six of those games Clemens himself was not scored upon, and in five of them the winning team tallied only one run.
Say what you want about The Rocket and how this affects his Cy Young chances, but when this season is over, if the Astros haven't won the Wild Card, the players who failed to generate even the tiniest bit of offense will have all of these fantastically pitched games that resulted in losses floating above their beds, haunting them like the Ghost of Christmas' Past, reminding them of the opportunities for happiness and redemption they let slip through their fingers.
The push for .500 continues, and despite a pretty bad offensive two weeks, they still gained some ground toward their goal. It just got a lot harder, though. With Ben Sheets likely done for the year, it'll be up to the bats to step up and wash the bad taste of twelve straight seasons of futility out of the city's collective mouths.
Despite being a franchise as thoroughly without direction as any in the game, the Reds have managed to post a 26-15 record since the All-Star Break, and stand tied with the incredibly disappointing Cubs for fourth place in the division.
How have they done it? With a bludgeon. True, they've held their opponents to 4.56 runs per game - not great, but in Cincinnati, a big run-prevention treat - but the real secret has been the nearly six runs they've scored per game themselves (5.93 for you sticklers). Impressive? Yes. Sustainable? No.
While it's a small one, there is a possibility that the Pirates could end up as far out of fifth as the Astros are out of first, and considering the continuing dominance of the 2005 iteration of the Cardinals, that's a scathing indictment.