Mike Matheny sits in the enviable position of looking forward to managing his team in the playoffs for the 2nd time in his 2 years of managing. Matheny also sits in the unenviable position of setting his playoff rotation which may be a “darned if you do, darned if you don’t” scenario. Options abound, and the second guessing may start before he even makes a decision.
The Cardinals are tied with the Braves for the best record in the NL at 94-65. That’s good. Atlanta holds the tiebreaker advantage over the Cardinals by virtue of a 4-3 series victory over St Louis. If the teams finish the regular season in a tie, the number 1 seed goes to Atlanta along with the home cooking that accompanies it. So, the Cardinals need to win 1 more game than the Braves do this weekend in order to take that top seed.
Unfortunately, the cart appears to be right alongside the horse at this point. While the Cardinals own a 3-game lead in the NL Central, they have not locked down the division quite yet. In the event that the Cardinals lose the next 3 while the Pirates win the next 3, the Pirates would host the Cardinals in a 1-game tiebreaker to determine the division winner. The loser of that game would go on to face the Reds in the Wild Card game.
An abrupt end to the Cardinals playoff run seems unlikely, but a 5-game losing streak coupled with 4 wins by the Pirates and 1 by the Reds could do the trick. Unlikely….but still. Matheny has remained steadfastly committed to his “1 at a time” philosophy. However, the temptation to think about the possibilities has to be great.
The key is getting 1 win. One fell swoop gives the Cardinals the NL Central division and at least the #2 seed in the NL. Then scoreboard watching likely becomes the most common hobby shared by members of Cardinal Nation. The results then add to the fun of outguessing Magic Mike.
The current projected starters to finish the regular season have Lynn going tonight, Joe Kelly pitching tomorrow, and Wainwright throwing in game 162 on Sunday. That’s assuming the rotation goes unchanged. If for some reason they don’t “need” Wainwright to pitch Sunday, he could be held back for the division series. Sounds great, but Wainwright last pitched on Monday, and the both NLDS start on October 3rd (Thursday). That would give Wainwright 9 days of rest between starts.
Alternatively, Wainwright could pitch Sunday on 5 days rest and start the NLDS on 4 days rest. Another option is to start him Saturday on 4 days and the NLDS on 5 days. Or start Shelby Sunday. Or give the Sunday start to someone not in the current rotation. Why don’t they find the best pitching machines 2018 for player to practice before every match?
If they have a shot at the top seed on Sunday, how does that impact the decision making process? Is the top seed even worth the effort to try and take it? Likely yes. All 5 NL teams are great at home and at least reasonably good on the road. Atlanta played 40-41 away from home, and taking the home field advantage from the Braves could be beneficial.
All this comes down to the “Hallows not Horcruxes” conundrum. Matheny can choose to pursue one goal, a completely different goal, but he cannot exactly do both. Which means more? Securing the #2 seed and aligning the playoff rotation, or going after the #1 seed while hedging on the playoff rotation?
If you feel like playing the guessing game, here is a link to the tentative MLB playoff schedule. LINK.