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The Cardinals, as I wrote earlier, are pretty much playing to put extra money in the pockets of local hoteliers, by extending the series and keeping the various traveling parties on the road a day or two longer. As a competitive enterprise, the 2019 NLCS is over.
That doesn’t mean, of course, the Cardinals shouldn’t be trying to win the game. To do that, they’ll have to take advantage of run-scoring opportunities, given how few they’ve generated. Mike Shildt has already been too passive this month in chasing those chances.
Go back to NLDS Game Four, the bottom of the fourth inning, when Shildt let Dakota Hudson bat with two on and two out, the Cards up 3-1. Hudson had given the Cards four innings, and the Braves would turn the lineup over for a third time in the fifth. Hudson’s expected future performance, relative to the team’s relievers, was poor. The at-bat, however, was incredibly important. Shildt should have pinch-hit for Hudson. He didn’t, and 15 minutes later his team trailed 4-3.
This could very well come up again tonight, Hudson batting in the top of the fourth or top of the fifth, runners on, leverage high. Shildt must hit for Hudson if that situation occurs. The Cardinals have 12 pitchers, including eight relievers. They can fill the innings. Four of those relievers didn’t pitch last night -- their best four. Shildt’s team has two runs in three games. They have to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, and not squander them on a pitcher’s at-bat.
I’d go so far as to say that Shildt should hit for Hudson in the top of the second, in a two on or bases loaded, two-out situation. The Cardinals need runs more than they need innings, and they have their good relief pitchers well-rested and ready to go. Shildt can’t make the NLDS mistake again; if Dakota Hudson’s turn comes up in a big spot, he must send up a pinch-hitter to cash it in.