In a way, it was pretty emblematic of how this September has gone.
Eighth inning, down by two. Brandon Webb is finally gone, replaced by Brandon Lyon. Ludwick leads off with a single and Glaus a double that Ludwick had to hold up on to see if it was caught. Still, second and third, nobody out. At the very worst, it would appear the Cardinals would get a run in this one, if not tie it up.
Aaron Miles was up next. A fly ball or a groundout would get the run home. Instead, he hits a rope of a line drive, which would normally be great, except it was right at David Eckstein playing second, who doubled up Glaus. One out later the Cards are done with no runs across the plate.
This season was like that, somewhat. The first five months, the Cards got into scoring position, but September has doubled them up and sent them back to the dugout.
The tragic number is one now (the Mets, bless their hearts, keep us in there) so there's a good chance today is Official Elimination Day. Still, as the refrain goes, if anyone had said the Cardinals wouldn't be mathematically eliminated until 6 days before the end of the season, we'd have said it was going to be a very good year.
Hero of last night's game would be probably a tossup between Felipe Lopez and Cesar Izturis
. Izturis gets the nod because he got his three hits in one less at-bat. Goat? I think I'm going to go with Albert Pujols
. He did draw two walks, but he struck out in a key spot. There was a reference in one of the stories recently that the elbow is bothering him more than normal. If that's the case, it wouldn't hurt for him to sit out a game or two. I know better than to think he would agree to sitting out the rest of the season.
Speaking of injuries (and how do you talk about the Cardinals lately without doing just that), the team still really doesn't know what is wrong
with Chris Carpenter. He's going to see a specialist for the "non-baseball" injury, which as to be a little disconcerting for fans. There seems to be a growing chorus of people that aren't sure he'll ever pitch effectively again. That'd be sad for many reasons, but especially because he was just getting to the top of his game when he got hurt. To see someone be a shooting star is always a little painful.
Let's take a look at tonight's game. It's hard to believe that we are getting to the part of the season where we can say, "That was the last x". After Kyle Lohse's start tonight, it'll be the last turn through the rotation. Where does the time go?
Lohse pitched in the series in Arizona at the beginning of the month and did very well, though the team rallied to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He threw six scoreless innings, but the bullpen couldn't hold it. He's done well against them in the past
, so perhaps he can continue that trend tonight.
Randy Johnson didn't pitch well when the Cardinals faced him last, giving up four home runs in another game that the Cards came from ahead to lose. The Redbirds have hit him well in his career
, so everything's in their favor tonight on paper. They don't play the games on paper, though.
Having Randy Johnson go against St. Louis always reminds me of the first time I knew Pujols was something. There'd been some prospect hype about him when he came up in 2001 (though at least in my mind nothing like we hype the prospects today) and the first Saturday game
was on Fox, which gave me my first opportunity to see him play. I actually taped the game, more because Rick Ankiel was pitching (kinda--this was after the 2000 meltdown. He struggled through five innings and got credit for the win, the last he'd receive in the majors until his return in 2004 as a reliever) than for any other reason.
It was in the middle innings. I remember that there were a couple of outs and Johnson got two quick strikes on Pujols. Since he's a rookie, I'm thinking "here comes the strikeout". Johnson throws a pitch that dives low out of the strike zone. Not only does Pujols not get fooled, he ropes it for a run-scoring double. That's when I knew there was probably something to this kid. To drive a good two-strike pitch from a HOF pitcher in his prime in your fifth career game makes you stop and think.
We have a week more to enjoy Pujols and the rest of the guys. Let's watch some baseball and try to stave off winter as long as possible.
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