ST. LOUIS -- It's a constant at any level -- a good pitcher can make a great baseball team look awfully bad. "We've all been there," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said on Tuesday night after Chris Carpenter shut down the Tigers, 5-0, on three hits in Game 2 of the World Series at Busch Stadium. "[Jeremy] Bonderman can do it to us [on Wednesday]." Nothing would make Tigers manager Jim Leyland any happier with the Cardinals holding a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, which is threatening to extend past Halloween if this week's projected inclement weather pans out.
So far, starting pitching has dominated and the Tigers have Bonderman, first-game loser Justin Verlander, and second-game winner Kenny Rogers, set to go in the next three games. La Russa has National League Championship Series MVP Jeff Suppan in Wednesday night's Game 4. After that, it's up for grabs. La Russa could come back with Game 1 winner, rookie Anthony Reyes, but then again, maybe not. "All [pitching coach] Dave [Duncan] and I have talked about is keeping our options open," La Russa said. "That's one of the beauties of playing in October in a short series -- you get to consider bringing guys back on three days' rest when you wouldn't think about it during the season. So it's Supp [on Wednesday] and we'll see after that." Reyes, Rogers and Carpenter dominated the first two games, combing for a 3-0 record and an 0.75 ERA -- two earned runs on nine hits in 24 innings. Jeff Weaver (in Game 2) and Nate Robertson (on Tuesday night), also pitched pretty well. The ERA of those five pitchers is 2.38 -- nine earned runs in 34 innings. Only the rookie Verlander has had a shabby outing. Add his six earned runs in five innings and the ERA of all the starters is only 3.46. So it stands to reason that starting pitching will continue to dominate a series that may go the distance for the first time since 2002, when the Angels came back to defeat the Giants in seven games. "Normally, when you get to a World Series, there's good pitching on both teams, and that's certainly the case here, that's the way it is," Leyland said. "And these are two teams that have very good pitching. They're on a roll right now with their staff and we've pretty much been on a roll all year with our staff. There's one common denominator: if you get to the World Series, you have to have good pitching. And you have to beat one to win."
The Tigers' starting pitching dominated in the first two rounds.It wasn't so long ago that Rogers and Bonderman made the Yankees look sick in the final two games of their American League Division Series. The Yanks were upset in four games, and in the aftermath, fans were calling for manager Joe Torre to be fired and two-time AL MVP Alex Rodriguez to be banished to Siberia. Cooler heads prevailed and both are still with the team. After the Tigers swept the A's, holding them to nine runs in four games, cooler heads didn't. Oakland manager Ken Macha was dismissed, although he had two years to go on his contract. Nothing that dramatic will happen after this series. But the Cardinals seem to have the upper hand. Carpenter wasn't even their best starter in the National League Championship Series against the Mets. He was blown out of Game 2 and took the loss in Game 6. Suppan was the guy, allowing one run on five hits in 15-plus innings in his two NLCS starts. He won Game 3 and wasn't the victor in Game 7, but he pushed the Cards into the eighth inning and that was good enough. Wednesday night will be his last start of the postseason. Let the games begin. "Supp is a professional guy who prepares himself mentally and physically," said Carpenter, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner and a top candidate to win again this year. "He's ready to go out and compete and he can execute. I've seen that in the last two series. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a fun night." Fun if you're a Cardinals fan. Not so much fun if you root for the Tigers. Even the Cardinals manager looked pretty grim, but that's no shock. "We have a lot of respect for the Tigers," La Russa said. "Each of these guys, they're working hard right through the end of the postseason. Nobody is backing off. It won't be an easy game."
Barry M. Bloom is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.