How concerned should Cards be?

Looking ahead to Monday's Division Series action

Originally Published: October 8, 2012
ESPN.com

After four games on Sunday, we downshift a little on Monday, with Game 2 of the NLDS between the Washington Nationals and St. Louis Cardinals and Game 2 of the ALDS that features the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles. What should we expect? Our experts have the answers.

1. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being "most concerned," how concerned should the Cards be?

Doug Glanville (@dougglanville), Baseball Tonight: 8. With the last home game for the Cardinals up next, they need Jaime Garcia to be the guy he has always been at home. They have to go through Jordan Zimmermann, who may have the best stuff on the Nats' playoff staff. Heading back to Washington without a split will put the Cards up against great pitching at home. Not good.

Bill Baer (@crashburnalley), Crashburn Alley: 9. Instead of having to win 50 percent of the remaining four games, the Cardinals now have to win 75 percent. Such is life in a short series, so the Cardinals should be concerned, especially since they let a perfectly winnable game slip through their grasp. They also have to consider that they will have to win at least two games on the road.

Matthew Philip (@mattphilip), Fungoes: 5. Losing the first game at home stinks, but if the Cardinals consider they essentially gave it away themselves, they can remain confident that they can win Monday. The Phillies pummeled the Cards in Game 1 last year, and the Cardinals rebounded to win the series.


2. What's the unsung storyline of this postseason thus far?

Glanville: The Nats' bullpen. Most don't know how dominant they have been all year. Gio Gonzalez expressed it again after he struggled early and the bullpen picked him up. The Nationals have so many moving parts that work together like a fine musical instrument. They are a true team. Tyler Moore is another example. Big hit. With the Nationals, there is no such thing as "unlikely" hero.

Baer: The unfairness of the playoffs overall. The A's and Tigers started Game 1 after 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, then played Game 2 at noon ET the following day. Then consider that the A's won six more games than the Tigers during the regular season, but had to play the first two games on the road. And from a fan's perspective, staggering four games from noon well beyond midnight isn't very fun.

Philip: Veteran versus rookie managing. The Cardinals' undoing Sunday was partly a result of questionable calls by first-year manager Mike Matheny, who routinely suboptimized his team in the regular season, both in the bullpen and on offense (e.g., sacrifice bunting with his first and second batters in the order). On the other hand, Davey Johnson has a better handle on in-game management. In a series of evenly matched teams on the field, manager decisions can have an impact on the outcome of a game.


3. What do you expect on Monday?

Glanville: I expect Nationals-Cardinals to be a well-pitched game in which the bullpens make the difference once again. The Cardinals are just hoping their big hit comes late enough that the Nats don't have time to respond.

Baer: Smarter, cleaner baseball, hopefully, as the theme of the playoffs so far has been remarkably poor defense and decision-making. Two of the three biggest plays in Game 2 in Detroit, going by win probability added (WPA), occurred on center fielder Coco Crisp's two-run fielding error and Ryan Cook's wild pitch. The bunting by both teams in the eighth inning in St. Louis was in poor judgment as well, theoretically reducing their likelihood of scoring runs.

Philip: Jaime Garcia and Jordan Zimmermann will lock up in a pitchers' duel. And the Cardinals will knock at least one souvenir over the outfield boards.