You would think that in a perfect world you would want your ace pitcher going up against the best team in baseball in a potential rubber game of a three-game road series while your team is in the midst of a tight divisional race.
And make no mistake, Yu Darvish is the Texas Rangers' ace.
But after Thursday's emotional, series-clinching win over AL West-leading Oakland, the Rangers announced Darvish would not be making his start on Sunday in St. Louis and would instead start in Tuesday's series opener in The Bronx against the New York Yankees.
There are a few reasons why the Rangers likely made the decision.
First of all, Martin Perez was knocking on the door to get another start in the big leagues as the Rangers' top pitching prospect has been dominant at Triple-A Round Rock since making his last start with the Rangers on May 27, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. He'll start Saturday, pushing Nick Tepesch back to Sunday and Darvish to Tuesday.
There's a reason the Rangers would rather start Perez than Darvish, as the Cardinals are the league's worst team as far as disparity between hitting against right-handed and left-handed pitching. As a team, the Cardinals hit .290 against right-handed pitching and just .234 against lefties, meaning Perez will have a decided advantage, at least on paper.
Thirdly, Darvish could maybe use the extra rest. Instead of his normal four days' rest, Darvish will get a six-day hiatus between starts after a not-so-good outing on Tuesday in the Rangers' loss to Oakland when he struck out 10 but gave up two homers and struggled with his control. He hasn't picked up a win since May 16 despite pitching well, but his control has wavered at times.
Finally, what if the Rangers just don't want to tip their Darvish hat to the Cardinals just yet. The Cardinals appear to be a pretty solid favorite to win the NL pennant, and while the Rangers have a lot of work to do in the next few months, they're still one of the better teams in the American League. The last time the Rangers and Cardinals met was that fateful two-game stretch in St. Louis when the Cardinals came back from a 3-2 series deficit to win the 2011 World Series. Of course, Darvish was a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters at that time. The Cardinals have never faced him, and if the teams meet in the 2013 World Series, they'll be facing him for the first time.