ST. LOUIS - St. Louis’ pitching staff has been dominant through the first three games of the World Series. The scary part for the Detroit Tigers is they’ve yet to face the Cardinals’ most dominant playoff pitcher.
And with more heavy rain in the forecast, it’s not known if the teams will take the field again anytime soon.
Weather permitting, Jeff Suppan will try to put together another brilliant playoff performance in a bid to help the Cardinals take a commanding lead in the World Series on Thursday night when they play Game 4 against the Tigers at Busch Stadium.
At 5 p.m. ET Thursday, there was a slight drizzle in St. Louis and the infield was covered with a tarp. Game 4 is still scheduled to start at 8:27 p.m.
This game originally was scheduled for Wednesday night, but on-and-off drizzle throughout the day became heavy rain with increasing intensity and was called after a 1 hour, 51 minute delay.
According to the National Weather Service Web site, there is a 60 percent chance for rain during the day and 90 percent at night in St. Louis on Thursday. A heavy, wind-driven rain is forecast for Friday during the day, tapering off to a 20 percent chance of showers later that night.
“They’re going to be dicey,” said Jimmie Lee Solomon, executive vice president of baseball operations in the commissioner’s office. “We don’t know whether or not that rain will linger, like it did tonight.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said the postponement was the right call.
“This wouldn’t have been a baseball game, it would have been survival,” he said. “I’m actually pleased for both teams that we’re not playing. Fans, that wouldn’t have been too much fun, either.”
It was the first postponement of a World Series game since Game 1 in 1996 between the Atlanta Braves and Yankees in New York.
If they get this game in Thursday, Suppan will have to follow one of the best pitching performances this postseason. Chris Carpenter and Braden Looper combined on a three-hitter Tuesday night as St. Louis won 5-0 to take a 2-1 series lead.
After batting .297 and averaging 5.5 runs to win seven of eight American League playoff games, the Tigers have managed just five runs in three games versus the Cardinals.
Detroit is batting only .185 in the World Series, including .154 (2-for-13) with runners in scoring position. The Tigers advanced only one runner past first base Tuesday — Brandon Inge reached third base in the third inning — but center fielder Curtis Granderson grounded out to end the threat.
“If we don’t swing the bats better they’ll go up 3-1,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s as simple as it is. But at the same time when I say that, I think we’ll swing the bats better. We’re certainly not conceding anything.”
Now, the Cardinals give Suppan the ball for the fourth time this postseason. The right-hander dominated the New York Mets in two NL championship series starts, giving up only one run and five hits over 15 innings to earn NLCS MVP honors.
He did not factor in the decision in Game 7 at New York last Thursday, but limited the Mets to one run and two hits in seven innings to make a 3-1 St. Louis victory possible.
“This guy has been nails for us,” La Russa said. “He’s come through so big. But I’ve got people that I know in the Cardinal organization that have been around 30, 40 years, that compare that performance in Game 7 with what any Cardinal pitcher has ever done.”
Suppan, who pitched for the AL Central rival Kansas City Royals from 1998-2002, is a familiar face to the Tigers. The right-hander is 8-6 with a 4.63 ERA in 20 career starts against them — the most he’s had against any opponent.
A couple of key Detroit hitters have had success against Suppan. Magglio Ordonez is 17-for-43 (.395) with two homers and two doubles versus the right-hander, while Ivan Rodriguez is 6-for-12 with two doubles and a triple.
Second baseman Placido Polanco, though, is just 1-for-13 (.077) versus Suppan. The ALCS MVP is 0-for-10 in the first three games of the World Series after batting .471 through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Leyland planned on dropping Polanco from third to seventh in the order while moving up first baseman Sean Casey and shortstop Carlos Guillen. The Tigers manager said he will continue to bat Granderson and Rodriguez — a combined 0-for-24 in the World Series — first and sixth, respectively.
“You don’t want to criticize anybody, and I’m not criticizing anybody, but right now in the lineup we have three guys that are 0-for-34,” Leyland said. “The key is to get them going. Once in a while, you hope just something like that maybe shakes things up.”
While the Tigers have had plenty of experience against Suppan, the Cardinals have faced Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman only once, on June 25 at Comerica Park. Bonderman gave up one run and seven hits over seven innings, but did not receive a decision in a 4-1 Tigers victory.
The Tigers’ 23-year-old right-hander claims not to be fazed by a Cardinals lineup which includes such marquee sluggers as Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds.
“I don’t really try to overanalyze these guys, because they’re all human,” Bonderman said. “They all make outs. You’ve just got to go out and attack them, try to put them on the defense.”
Bonderman, who will be pitching on 10 days’ rest, certainly did not succumb to the pressure of the first two rounds of the playoffs. He is 1-0 with five runs allowed in 15 innings over two postseason starts.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Like Suppan, Bonderman did not earn a decision but put his team in position to win its league championship series clincher. The right-hander allowed three runs in 6 2-3 innings of Game 4 of the ALCS against Oakland on Oct. 14, which the Tigers went on to win 6-3, completing a sweep.
If Detroit loses Thursday, it will need to take the same path it took to defeat the Cardinals in the 1968 World Series, when the Tigers fell behind three-games-to-one before rallying to win the series in seven games.
Of the 39 teams to take 3-1 leads in the World Series, 34 have gone on to win the title. The last team to squander such an advantage was the 1985 Cardinals, who lost in seven games to Kansas City.
Edmonds, who struggled with post-concussion syndrome this season and is still dealing with foot and shoulder injuries, has reached base safely in 13 of 14 games this postseason and has at least one hit and one RBI in each game of the World Series. His two-run double in the fourth inning gave the Cardinals the lead in Game 3.
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