The Cards completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks today, 6-1, on the strength of a 3-run homer by Scott Rolen. The sweep puts the Cardinals in a tie with Arizona for the second seed in the league-the tiebreaker for which they now win on their strength of their better head-to-head record-, this with the Cardinals management seemingly barely trying.
St. Louis starter Garret Stephenson had not gotten past the fourth since May 24 and was 1-5 with a 6.08 ERA as the game began. He pitched five innings of one-hit ball. He was wild (5 walks) but the D-Backs didn't capitalize on it. Stephenson started according to Tony LaRussa expressly because the Diamondbacks would not see him in the postseason or rather so that they wouldn't see a starter that they would face in the postseason.
Meanwhile, Arizona started 23-game winner Curt Schilling. Schilling pitched a complete game and allowed only 6 hits (and one walk) while striking out 12. However, two of those hits were two-out, three-run home runs (to Rolen in the 4th and J.D. Drew in the 8th). Since winning his 21st on August 21, Schilling is 2-3 with two no-decisions in seven starts. He has also raised his ERA nearly .5 runs, from 2.68 to 3.14, over that time, nearly assuring teammate Randy Johnson of his fifth Cy Young award.
The D-Backs collected four hits, only 1 in their top four spots in the order (and that by a pinch-hitter). They have been outscored 22-4 in what may be-if the D-Backs hang on to win their division-a preview of one of the NL Division Series. Arizona has now lost 6 straight and could have their lead cut to two games should the Giants win tonight. After their last win, September 19, the D-Backs led the Giants by 7.5 games. They have also lost Luis Gonzalez and Brian Anderson for the season during the losing streak. They now play host to the Rockies who swept them last weekend at Coors. The Cardinals play host to the reeling Brewers who just changed their team management and whose biggest story is Jose Hernandez's strikeout record "chase".
Speaking of Scotty Rolen, the Cardinals reportedly are about to sign the third baseman to an 8-year, $90-million contract. Given that Rolen is 27, this deal would basically make him a Cardinal for life. It is basically the same deal, give or take a year, that he turned down a year before becoming a pariah in Philadelphia as well as sportswriter Bill Conlin's favorite whipping boy (the Phillies did up it to $140M for 10 years after it was clear that Rolen was souring). He actually would have made more per season with the Phillies' initial 7-year deal and much more in their final offer-so much for Rolen's being a self-interested "cancer." Rolen has returned to his established levels after leaving the difficult situation in Philadelphia behind. He has also hit 30 home runs for the second time in his career. The Cardinals are 35-20 since Rolen joined the team. Rolen had said that his refusal to the Phillies was more about winning than money. I hope that this proves it to the Philly faithful so that when the Cardinals next appear in town they can instead return to booing J.D. Drew, anything but skewering the team's management that treats one of the largest fan bases in the country like it's Milwaukee.