Should Jaime Garcia have started Game 2 of the Cardinals-Nationals series, knowing he had been experiencing a recurrence of shoulder troubles before he took the mound?
Garcia admitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after Game 2 that he felt soreness in his left shoulder for several days leading up to his brief and ineffective outing, but didn't say anything to the coaching staff.
Considering that same shoulder had sidelined Garcia for two months midseason, his silence wasn't a good idea. The coaching staff missed any pre-game warning signs, and Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak called the situation, 'frustrating'.
But this could have been much worse than frustrating. How about devastating, given that Game 2 for the Cardinals was about as must-win as it gets? This would be a much bigger issue if not for the avalanche of Cardinals' offense in a 12-4 Game 2 beatdown.
But it's clear that Garcia shouldn't have been on the mound. And if not for tough sun-shadows conditions due to an early start time at Busch Stadium, he and the Cardinals were fortunate to escape with only one run allowed in two innings despite two walks and three hits.
Ah, but the Cardinals aren't defending World Series champions for nothing. Even without Garcia, they have Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and Adam Wainwright lined up for the final three games of this series - not to mention versatile 18-game winner Lance Lynn for a possible NLCS start.
And that's more than you can say for the Nationals, who - surprise, surprise - are missing Stephen Strasburg.
Yes, the Nationals played .600 regular-season ball in games Strasburg didn't start, but there are no wins against the Mets and Marlins come playoff time. Especially not when you're facing a lineup as potent as the Cardinals, whp finished second in runs behind Milwaukee in the regular season, and has the postseason version of Carlos Beltran (read: monstrous) in the No. 2 spot.
And the Cardinals just added to their dominance of Jordan Zimmermann. As good as Zimmerman's last two seasons have been - ERAs of 3.18 and 2.94 - he's been awful against the Cardinals: 9.76 ERA in six career starts after his disastrous three innings in Game 2.
So it's on Edwin Jackson, whom the Cardinals know very well since he was in their postseason rotation last year, and Ross Detwiler to give the Nationals quality starts before Gonzalez in a potential Game 5.
Jackson also is pitching for a multi-year, free-agent deal. Detwiler will be trying to continue a breakout season. And Strasburg continues to express some frustration - as well as resignation - that it's too late to change things now.
How (will?) Joe Girardi shake up his lineup for the rest of the Yankees-Orioles series, as it moves to Yankee Stadium?
Maybe the more-pointed question is how much can Girardi do when: 1. Alex Rodriguez has looked overmatched in far too many at-bats lately - behind the fastball, flailing at off-the-plate breaking pitches; 2. Mark Teixeira is playing on a bad calf; 3. Nick Swisher's run of post-season failure with runners in scoring position makes him as vulnerable as A-Rod; 4. Buck Showalter has the bullpen weapons to mitigate late-inning damage (we're giving closer Jim Johnson a Game 1 mulligan), and 5. can just pitch around Robinson Cano when necessary?
First things first. It's not as if the Orioles are running out Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Dobson. Their Game 1 starter was Jason Hammel, who has pitched 14.1 innings since the All-Star break. Their most-effective starter, rookie Wei-Yin Chen, won 12 regular-season games with a 4.09 ERA. Up next is 28-year-old rookie Miguel Gonzalez, followed by veteran middle-of-the-rotation left-hander Joe Saunders.
Granted, all four have been pitching well lately, but the point is: Get to the starting pitcher before Showalter can counter-punch with his bullpen mix-and-max strategy - one of the biggest factors in the Orioles' unlikely 30-9 record in one-run games. Push the envelope early. Put the focus on getting a lead.
Next, Cano should be locked into the No. 3 spot, where the best hitter in the lineup belongs. Interestingly, Cano did bat third in a 6-1 loss to Gonzalez on Aug. 31 - when neither Rodriguez or Teixeira played - followed by Curtis Granderson, Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez.
The latter two each homered and had two hits in Gonzalez's other start against New York on July 30, when the Yankees scored four runs against him in 6.2 innings, only to lose 5-4. So perhaps Ibanez will move up in the Game 3 lineup as the DH. Still, Teixeira would appear to be the likeliest cleanup choice, with Rodriguez possibly falling as far as sixth.
Some of this would change again against Saunders in Game 4, of course. And the only certainty is that no matter how Girardi plays it lineup-wise, the Yankees are running out of time to pull away in a season series that stands 10-10 with a run differential of just 99-97 in their favor.