HOUSTON -- As the 2011 Cardinals stir memories of previous clubs, like the 2001 and 1964 Redbirds, who made stirring comebacks, manager Tony La Russa may be pondering a tactic that helped the 2006 Cards en route to the World Series.
Without specifically saying so, La Russa seemed to indicate Monday that he is pondering holding ace Chris Carpenter back from Wednesday's game against the Astros if the Cardinals can get a lead in the National League Wild Card race before then. St. Louis would need to win on Monday and Tuesday and Atlanta would need to lose on both of those days in order for it even to be a possibility.
Asked broadly whether he was considering any adjustments to his rotation over the final three games, La Russa was cagy.
"There is one scenario, without getting into it, that I've given some thought," La Russa said, adding that it would be a "good scenario," not a bad one.
As things stand, Carpenter is scheduled to start Wednesday's season finale. If the Cardinals and Braves played a one-game tiebreaker on Thursday, Kyle Lohse would start that game. That would leave Edwin Jackson as a potential Game 1 starter in a National League Division Series in Philadelphia. Carpenter could not pitch in that scenario before Game 3.
If the Cardinals were to hold Carpenter back in hopes of not needing him, they could start him in Game 1 of the Division Series. If they were to end up needing to play a one-game tiebreaker after holding Carpenter back, they could pitch him on Thursday and still have him available in Game 3 of the Division Series.
La Russa utilized just such a gambit on the final day of the 2006 season. He started Anthony Reyes on the season's final day, rather than Carpenter, even though the Cardinals had not yet secured a division title. They won the NL Central that day and had Carpenter available to pitch their playoff opener.