St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (22) pitches in the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam) By Tom Gannam
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson regroups in the dugout after giving up three runs in the third inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 in St. Louis.(AP Photo/Tom Gannam) By Tom Gannam
St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Edwin Jackson throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) By Jeff Roberson
There's no doubt who holds the key to the Cardinals chances tonight, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. The Cardinals have had their backs to the wall for the past six weeks, but tonight's game is their first true "must win" situation. If Jackson can't keep the Phillies in check, the Cardinals will check out for the season.
Jackson was hit hard by the Phillies during the regular season, so Tony La Russa will likely have a quick hook tonight if Jackson gets in trouble early. Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook will be available to go in long relief. No need to hold anybody back tonight. La Russa's hoping Jackson can give him at least five or six strong innings. The bullpen should be rested and ready to take it from there. The key is for Jackson to keep it close, and hopefully the Cardinals can scratch out a few runs against Phillies starter Roy Oswalt. If the Cards can get into the Philadelphia bullpen by the 7th inning they'll have a good chance to score some runs. That's the Phillies weakness.
If the Cardinals win tonight they'll have to face the National League's best pitcher, Roy Halliday, in game 5 Friday night in Philadelphia. Chris Carpenter would pitch that game for the Cardinals, so it's certainly not hopeless. Difficult for sure, but not hopeless. You can never count out Carpenter in a big game. But for now, it's up to Edwin Jackson to give the Cardinals a chance to get back to Philly.