Task of saving Cardinals' season falls to Pineiro

Updated: October 9, 2009

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Joel Pineiro, who went 15-12 in the regular season, gets the ball for St. Louis in Game 3.

A Cardinals team that started its NLDS against the Dodgers with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright -- rotation aces who very likely could fill the top two spots in the NL Cy Young voting -- now places the burden, one that suddenly has become the fate of its entire season, on the shoulders of Joel Pineiro, who starts Game 3 against the Dodgers' Vicente Padilla.

Yes, Pineiro was a 15-game winner in the regular-season and had a wonderful year, but he was supposed to be a complementary piece in this postseason; by no means a third wheel, but certainly not the linchpin he suddenly has become. We'll see whether he can somehow just bridge the gap and get the Cardinals to a Game 4, when Tony La Russa would have the option of giving Carpenter another shot in this series, albeit on three days' rest.

Pineiro's recent numbers suggest he won't be up to the task of saving the Cardinals' season. In his past five starts, Pineiro is just 1-3, and his pitches are finding a lot of bats. Opponents are hitting .288 against Pineiro in those five starts, with left-handed hitters torching him at a .306 clip in that span. Look for the Dodgers' big lefty bats of Andre Ethier and James Loney to cause problems.

Pineiro's stuff just hasn't been there, recently. Again, using his final five starts of the regular season as the most relevant sample size going into Saturday night's start in St. Louis, opponents are hitting .321 against Pineiro's fastball -- that's 36 points above the league average. The opposition has a .313 average against Piniero's slider, which is a startling 88 points above the norm.

Keep in mind also that the Cardinals didn't exactly go marching into this postseason at full speed. The Game 2 loss in Los Angeles, which almost certainly will go down in St. Louis history as " The Matt Holliday Game", was the Cardinals' 10th loss in 12 games. St. Louis has gone just 3-for-22 with runners in scoring position in this series so far. Yes, MVP-in-waiting Albert Pujols has been intentionally walked three times already, but the Dodgers have succeeded at preventing Pujols from beating them; he has been held to just one hit in six at-bats -- and that hit was a single.

A St. Louis baseball season that featured a pair of Cy Young favorites and a hands-down MVP winner is one loss from ending with a stunning three-game sweep, with the Cardinals' Cy Young contenders able only to sit back and watch.

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: Oct. 8 | Oct. 7 | Oct. 6 | Oct. 5 | Oct. 4

PLAYOFF WATCH: SATURDAY'S MATCHUPS

Phillies at Rockies, 9:37 p.m. ET

Pedro Martinez makes his postseason return. He hasn't pitched a playoff game since 2004. It will be a bit chilly when he takes the mound, with near-record lows -- we're talking low- to mid-20s -- expected at Coors Field. Oh yeah, maybe some snow, too. His opponent, Jason Hammel, beat the Phillies on Aug. 4, going 6 2/3 innings in his only start against Philadelphia in the regular season. (He did make one relief appearance).

For the rest of the playoff schedule, click here.


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BBTN ON THE AIR: FRIDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
1 a.m. ET
ESPN2
Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Tim Kurkjian, Buck Showalter, Eduardo Perez

BBTN MINUTE: COLD IN COLORADO

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at the club Mark Teixeira joined with his walk-off homer in the 11th, which propelled the Yankees' to a 4-3 win over the Twins

Yankees walk-off HR
Postseason history
Player Year Situation Opponent
Mark Teixeira 2009 ALDS (Gm. 2) Twins
Aaron Boone 2003 ALCS (Gm. 7) Red Sox
Derek Jeter 2001 World Series (Gm. 4) Diamondbacks
Alfonso Soriano 2001 ALCS (Gm. 4) Mariners
Chad Curtis 1999 World Series (Gm. 3) Braves
Bernie Williams 1999 ALCS (Gm. 1) Red Sox
Bernie Williams 1996 ALCS (Gm. 1) Orioles
Jim Leyritz 1995 ALDS (Gm. 2) Mariners
Chris Chambliss 1976 ALCS (Gm. 5) Royals
Mickey Mantle 1964 World Series (Gm. 3) Cardinals
Tommy Henrich 1949 World Series (Gm. 1) Dodgers

THURSDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Alex RodriguezAlex Rodriguez drilled a two-run shot in the ninth inning to send the Yankees to extra innings against the Twins in Game 2 of their ALDS. Mark Teixeira then connected on a game-winning solo shot in the 11th.
WORST
Joe NathanJoe Nathan had blown only one save since Sept. 1. He coughed up a big one Friday night in the Bronx. It was Nathan who served up the two-run shot to Alex Rodriguez in the ninth inning of a game the Twins lost 4-3 in 11.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Vicente Padilla The Dodgers look to wrap up their NLDS on Saturday night in St. Louis as they send Vicente Padilla to the mound to take on Joel Pineiro and the Cardinals.

Padilla is 4-0 with the Dodgers this season since being traded from the Rangers, and L.A. has gone on to win six of his seven starts. The key to Padilla's success lies in his ability to work ahead in the count. When Padilla falls behind, he's forced to throw more pitches in the zone, with drastic consequences:

Vicente Padilla by count
With Dodgers (2009)
Ahead Behind
BA against .127 .600
Strike pct. 59.1 65.9
In-zone pct. 66.9 72.1
Chase pct. 22.7 15.9*

* MLB average is 21.0 percent.

-- ESPN Stats & Information

THIS DATE IN "THAT'S NASTY" HISTORY

Each night throughout the postseason, "Baseball Tonight" will remember some of the postseason's best pitching performances.

Oct. 10, 1968 -- Mickey Lolich outpitched Bob Gibson (who had a 1.12 ERA in 1968) as the Tigers won Game 7 of the World Series, beating the Cardinals 4-1. Lolich pitched a five-hitter for his third win of the Series. Since Lolich, three pitchers have thrown a complete-game victory in Game 7 of the World Series: Jack Morris in 1991, Bret Saberhagen in 1985 and Steve Blass in 1971.