After making quick work of the Dodgers in the division series, the Mets start a four-of-seven series against the Cardinals tonight. As they stand four wins away from the World Series, the Mets look across at a team that -- like the Dodgers -- could be vulnerable on the mound, especially in the bullpen. The Cardinals have been inconsistent all year, and their pitching has been a big reason why.
Throughout the regular season, St. Louis has relied on Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis to start games. Marquis imploded down the stretch, but Weaver, the Game 1 starter, has come on strong. He'll face a stiff test when he goes against the Mets -- they love right-handed pitchers like Weaver. The Cardinals made the right move by replacing Marquis on the roster by Anthony Reyes, a young right-hander who has a higher ceiling than the dreadful Marquis. This series will likely see at least one Mets blowout.
If the Mets win, the games will look like the ones against the Dodgers -- a talented offense working over an overmatched staff and undermanned bullpen. Before Mets fans punch their tickets, however, they should remember this: the Cardinals have the best pitcher (Chris Carpenter) and hitter (Albert Pujols) in the series. Carpenter could win the Cy Young Award for the second straight year, and Pujols should win his second consecutive most valuable player award. The Mets would love to avoid heading to St. Louis tied, 1-1, with Carpenter starting Game 3. And they should dread the thought of playing a Game 7 with Carpenter ready again -- against Steve Trachsel.
The Mets made one change in their roster from their last series with the Dodgers to this series - removing relief pitcher Royce Ring off and adding infielder Anderson Hernandez. Cliff Floyd remains on the roster despite his ankle injury.
Photo by AP/Kathy Willens