Who knew that the stellar play by Alcides Escobar on Wednesday night's game won a game for the Royals on Thursday?
With Edward Mujica and Trevor Rosenthal off-limits due to their recent usage (and, in Rosenthal's case, warming up even when he wasn't used), Mitchell Boggs got the call last night with a one-run game in the ninth inning. If Escobar doesn't make that diving stop, most likely Michael Blazek pitches the ninth yesterday, perhaps making Mujica available for this one. Maybe not--both pitchers were warming at the same time--but knowing that Michael Wacha was three outs from a well-deserved win, he might have used the big guns to secure it.
However, that's a case of parallel universe baseball. In this one, the regulars weren't available and Boggs came in. While Boggs had done OK in Memphis, he'd struggled after his return. Then again, there wasn't anyone else down there that immediately inspired more confidence, so Mike Matheny didn't seem to have many options.
Boggs had a large part of the fan base against him due to his early struggles. After last night, giving up a home run to blow the win for an already-beloved Wacha? That portion grew significantly. When you realize just how limited the Royals power has been, that they'd only stroked two home runs in like 15 games, both by Miguel Tejada, it stings even more.
That said, the behavior of some of the on-line fan base last night was shameful. Boggs's wife Lele is on Twitter and had some extremely hateful and detestable things directed her way as her husband's surrogate. That's ridiculous and unacceptable. We don't like the results, we can argue whether Boggs should have been in or if he should be on the roster, but there's no doubt that he is trying to get outs as hard as he can. Adding on to that, the worth of a person is not determined by whether they succeed on the baseball field. Did hitting that home run make Jeff Francoeur a better person? Sure, it made Royal fans happier with him, but would he have been a different person if he struck out? Of course not. The anonymity of the Internet has allowed a lot of people to spout off when they wouldn't in person. And if you would say such terrible things to Boggs or his wife in person, you really need to reevaluate your life.
Before we leave the bullpen, can anyone tell me why Victor Marte stayed up when Wacha was activated instead of Blazek? Blazek, who didn't get any major league time, just a little bullpen warmup, might have done just as badly last night. Then again, he might have done better, as we've seen with a lot of these rookie arms. With Marte, we know what we are going to get, and it's not going to be pretty. I thought Marte was up just as an insurance policy in case there was one of those games where all the bullpen guys got used. Blazek could have filled that role and likely filled it much better. There has to be an injury to get him back on the roster before 10 days are up, but I can't imagine Marte is up past that, even if Mike Matheny tends to really enjoy running him out there.
While I'm giving Boggs the Goat because, well, it's tough not to given the situation, strong consideration has to be given to Matt Holliday. First inning, runner on second with one out, Holliday is obviously trying to go the other way and lines out to second. OK, understand the idea, just didn't work out. Second time up, bases loaded with one out. Wacha's on third after getting a hit in his first at-bat, but had been held up by Jose Oquendo after Carlos Beltran's hit. It was reasonable of Oquendo, not wanting the young gun to risk a play at the plate, but it became a big play when Holliday hit a little tapper back to the mound, allowing Jeremy Guthrie to go home and get the force there. Third time up, two outs and two on, he hits a grounder to second, ending the inning. A hit in just one of those times and we are probably talking about the Cardinals sweeping all their meetings against Kansas City this morning.
So what went right? Michael Wacha went right. With all the hype going into this game, I was sure that there was going to be a letdown in his performance, that he'd give up a few runs, maybe allow that elusive home run that the Royals had been looking for, things like that. Instead, Wacha gets a hit before he gives one up (shades of Shelby Miller in his first start last year) and retires the first 13 batters he faced. After a "rough patch" in the fifth, where he allowed the double to break up the perfecto and a single that snapped the shutout, he threw two more perfect innings. He struck out six in his time out and generally did everything people were expecting. The biggest test might not be his next start, at home against the Diamondbacks, but if I'm reading the schedule right, he'd get the final game of the Reds series in Cincinnati, which oh-by-the-way would be ESPN's Sunday Night game. One start at a time, though.
Kudos also to Joe Kelly, who came into a bases-loaded, no-out situation after the extensive rain delay and got three outs without allowing a run. Even though Kelly has struggled, you wonder if the results of the game would have been different had he come in instead of Boggs. No telling.
Offensively, Matt Carpenter and Beltran both had two hits but the rest of the offense couldn't quite get into gear. So often they'd put together a two-out rally, but never be able to bring it to fruition. Allen Craig and David Freese drove in runs in the first with two outs, but other than that, there just wasn't anything to get excited about as Guthrie got back on track.
Speaking of getting back on track, Jake Westbrookthrew a bullpen yesterday and felt good enough to start talking about rehab starts. He could go out as early of Tuesday of next week and start his rehab clock ticking. While the youngsters are obviously holding their own, getting a little veteran leadership back in the rotation wouldn't be a bad thing, especially since those innings are going to start piling up on young arms quickly.
After being out late last night/this morning (that rain delay really came at the wrong time), the Cards host the defending champs this evening. St. Louis won two of three out in San Francisco at the beginning of the season, including a 14-3 pounding in the final game of the series. That game was started by Matt Cain, who will go tonight for the Giants. Cain has had his struggles with the Redbirds in the past.
Holliday has struggled and you probably won't see Daniel Descalso in this one, but otherwise Cain hasn't fooled a lot of St. Louis hitters. Here's hoping he's not learned any new tricks. It's been a rough season so far for him anyway, with a 5.00 ERA even going into this one. His last two outings at home have been fairly good (though he only went five innings in his last one) but away from AT&T Park, it's been a different story.
The Cards send one of the youngsters to the mound to deal with the champs. Well, that doesn't narrow things down, I know, and honestly Shelby Miller feels like a grizzled vet compared to people like Wacha and Tyler Lyons. Miller gave up just two runs in 5.1 innings back in that April series and, in limited action, has done OK against the G-men.
Miller pitched well against the Giants in the NLCS last year as well, so he's got a bit of familiarity with them.
It's possible I'll post this weekend--as you know, Saturday posts aren't unheard of from me, though they aren't regular--but if not, this is the last post before everything changes. Be sure to check here Monday to see what I mean, but I promise you, reading C70 At The Bat will never be the same!
"And when I snap my fingers, you will realize you can hit Giants pitching."
Whomever snapped their fingers and pulled the Cardinals out of being mesmerized by anyone hurling the baseball wearing a San Francisco uniform should have done it a day earlier. That said, overall it was a pretty solid weekend for the Cards. Let's recap.
I said on Twitter after Jake Westbrook squirmed out of the fourth that it could have been worse, but the one run he allowed on a bases-loaded walk "might have been enough." Turned out that was the case as Barry Zito did to the Redbirds what he did to them last October, making the bats disappear.
Even though Westbrook got the loss, I'd give him the Hero tag if it weren't for the fact that he walked a whopping six batters. Westbrook put people on all day long, but was able to get out of jams in every inning but the fourth.
He might have gotten out of that one without being touched as well if it weren't for Yadier Molina, who has to be the Goat of this one. Molina bobbled a bunt by Zito in that inning, loading the bases for Angel Pagan, who then walked to force in the only run of the game. (Like we needed another reminder of Game 5 of last year, when Zito bunted for a base hit in the critical inning.) Yadi was also 0-3, so it wasn't one of his finest games.
We'll give the Hero tag to Allen Craig, one of the few batters who wasn't completely useless against the stylings of the former Cy Young winner. Craig rapped out two hits, while his counterparts in the lineup combined for just one more. Coming off of the 16-inning disappointment and a series loss to Arizona, this wasn't the way to start the weekend.
It started to look like more of the same on Saturday. The Cards were able to push across a first-inning run, but the Giants answered with one in the second and third to take a 2-1 lead. Cardinal fans had to start wondering if San Francisco had some sort of hold over this team.
And then someone snapped their fingers.
The Cards scored three runs in the fifth inning. Do realize that, until then, the Cards had scored three runs total in their last 40 innings against the team in orange and white. Three runs was huge and it paved the way for the victory, Shelby Miller's first in the big leagues.
There were a number of options for Hero. You had to like what Miller did in his first start, shutting down the world champs for the most part. He walked his last two batters and got the hook, though I'd have liked to seen if he could get out of it. The bullpen held, unlike what they did in Arizona, and Mitchell Boggs wound up with his first save. It wasn't a tightrope save, having a three run cushion, but it counts nonetheless.
Offensively, things got going. I'll give the Hero tag to Pete Kozma, who went three for four, scored a run and drove in a run. Kozma in the early going is picking up from where he left off last year, and if any team should have been able to shut him down, it was the Giants. He was not much of an offensive factor in last year's NLCS, so either the Giants forgot about how to get him out or he's made adjustments. You figure it must be the latter and that's an encouraging thing.
Carlos Beltran had a good day as well, tormenting Ryan Vogelsong as he's done many times before. Beltran drove in the first run and broke the game open as well, going 2-4 with three RBI. Credit also goes to Matt Carpenter, who had two hits.
We'll give the Goat to Jon Jay, who in his leadoff role went 0-4 and left three men on base. Usually it's tough to get things going when your leadoff guy is silent, but the Cards were able to make do in this one.
Matt Cain has often had trouble with the Cardinals. Not as much trouble as he had yesterday, of course. Nine runs in one inning isn't something that happens regularly, especially when you are as good as Cain is. His career ERA is almost five against the squad and there have been some really ugly games for him against the Redbirds. So it wasn't unheard of for the Cards to get to him, but it was sure a lot of fun to watch.
With fifteen hits, there are a lot of offensive possibilities for the Hero, though I'm torn between two for the most part. I'm going to give it to Matt Carpenter, who drove in three, scored three, and had three hits. That's a pretty solid day all around, don't you think? Yet Matt Adams was right there with him, getting three hits and two RBI in one less at-bat. He'd have had that at bat if he hadn't been pinch run with Tony Cruz. (I think they did that mainly so they could justify bringing Cruz on this trip. He could have gone straight to St. Louis and waited for them since this was his first game of the season. It's tough catching behind a Molina.)
Jon Jay, Yadier Molina and Ty Wigginton had two hits each....hang on, Ty Wigginton? Really? You mean that there is something left in his bat after all? Given the way many Cardinal fans have taken to this signing and the fact that Wigginton didn't hit at all in the spring, there were likely a lot of people bummed that he was starting yesterday when the Cards had a chance to win the series. While that contract was head-scratching, In Mo We Trust. I believe the Cards knew what they were doing and I'm willing to wait and see if Wigginton comes around. I don't think we'll see a lot of him anyway, so it's probably something of the order of a first world problem.
Adam Wainwright came back from his troubled Opening Day start to have an outstanding outing. He didn't let a leadoff triple faze him, stranding Pagan there with two strikeouts and a groundout. He did get behind 2-0 in the third on a couple of doubles, one of them Adams-aided, but the Cards put up the nine spot and he was good for the rest of the day. Seven innings, six strikeouts. I like that kind of Waino work!
Let's see, Goat for this one. That's tough, of course. Being that all the starters got at least one hit, everyone but Molina had at least one RBI, I'm going to go with Joe Kelly as the Goat. He came into garbage time, granted, and I doubt he was razor-sharp because of it, but he did give up a run in his only inning of work. Being that he got beat around some in Arizona, a clean inning out of him would have better to see than a three-hit one.
Now, now the season really begins. The Cardinals come home to St. Louis for hoopla, ceremony and what really is a holiday for anyone wearing Cardinal red. You saw the press release last week of all the scheduled events for today and Fox Sports Midwest should be covering them all on the TV side of things. One of these days, I really want to get up for an Opening Day in Busch Stadium. I don't know when or how, but there are only a few things on my bucket list and that's one of them!
While I won't be in the sea of red today, there will be one St. Louisian who will be returning to his native land. David Freese had a very solid weekend in Memphis, ate some ribs, walked on Beale Street, went three-for-five yesterday. Which means that Shane Robinson will miss out on all the festivities as he'll trade spots with Freese today.
It's going to be a tough Opening Day for some players. It's going to be tough for Wainwright not to cry, knowing that he's going to be here for a long time to come. It's going to be tough for Robinson to miss out on all the festivities. And it's going to be tough for Chris Carpenter, who will be attending likely his last home opener as a Cardinal player. Carp, who engaged in a little unexpected public relations this weekend, showing up with the Clydesdales to help deliver Opening Day tickets to some lucky fans, knows that it's a very special time and he's going to soak up as much as possible, but it's bittersweet when you know you can't contribute, when you can hang out in the dugout but can't get on the field. Hopefully Carpenter will have more openers to come to, either as a coach in the future or just as a respected player. While in the past they've only honored Hall of Famers, if they retire Carp's number, maybe they'll add him to the parties as well.
Jaime Garcia goes for the Cardinals on this special day against the division-leading (and likely only real competition for the NL Central title) Reds. We know how good Garcia has been at home. How good has he been against these Reds?
Not too bad, actually, especially when you consider some of this had to be done in Cincy's bandbox ballpark (and what Garcia is like away from Busch usually). You'd expect as a lefty he'd have some success against Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, though Randy Choate and Marc Rzepczynski will have to ready to face them later in games as well.
The Cardinals will get to face Mat Latos, who was pretty dominant down the stretch last year for Cincinnati.
St. Louis has been able to hit him in the past, though it's never an easy chore. The Redbirds beat up on him last April in Busch, getting eight runs off of him in 5.2 innings. They also got seven runs in five innings of his work in August. In fact, that 5.2 in the first game was the longest he went into any game against the Cards. Hopefully that trend holds again today.
I'll start this off with a caveat that should surprise no one: I didn't see about half this game. I don't think many did that aren't in college or at least didn't have to go work today. It's not a pleasant thing to stay up until 2:30 in the morning when you have to get up before six to write this post.
"Not pleasant" also describes the Cardinal pitching staff from last night. Both teams traded punches, but the Cards were usually the one with the upper hand, the team that got in the first punch. The problem was, Arizona wouldn't fall, erasing four St. Louis leads before winning 10-9 in the 16th inning.
You could make the case for any number of pitchers to be the Goat in this outing. You've got Mitchell Boggs, who given a lead in the 12th immediately put the first two runners on. A pitcher can wriggle out of that kind of inning, but it's not often they can do it without giving up a run, which Boggs did to let Arizona tie the game and send it deeper into the night. Not exactly what we were hoping for from our newly minted temporary closer.
Of course, it wouldn't have gotten to that point without Joe Kelly, who scuffled greatly. His first pitch was hit out of the park for a two-run homer that gave Arizona a brief lead, then he allowed another long ball that let Arizona tie it up again. Kelly also gave up two other hits and only struck out one of the batters he faced. Can't say he covered himself with glory in this one.
You also had flamethrower Trevor Rosenthal get scuffed up. Handed another of those one-run leads, Rosenthal gave up three straight one-out hits and let Arizona get back even. He did have a better ninth inning, keeping the game tied, but obviously he'd have liked a better result in his first real setup action.
However, the Goat of the night on the pitching staff was Lance Lynn, because as it so often does, it all starts with the starter. Lynn got out to a 4-1 lead, the largest either team had all night, but was unable to even get an out in the fifth inning. Lynn threw 94 pitches and is going to have to do better than that quickly. There are too many arms that will take that slot in the rotation if he can't get deeper into games. As we know, Lynn may still be trying to adjust to his lesser weight, but again, that's something he needs to get under control quickly.
It's hard to fathom, but there were a couple of good pitching performances last night. Edward Mujica came in and did his job, allowing just a two-out walk in the seventh. Marc Rzepczynski threw two scoreless innings, striking out three and even being in line for the win until Boggs blew the save. We also saw the Cardinal debut of Randy Choate which was more mixed, as he got his man but allowed a sacrifice fly while doing so. Still, when he comes in with runners on second and third and one out, a sac fly isn't the worst thing you could get out of him.
Offensively, it was a big night. If the pitching staff hadn't produced so many Goat possibilities, Matt Carpenter might have been in line for it, going 0-6 with three strikeouts. However, he was the only starter that didn't get at least one hit and he and Matt Holliday were the only ones without multiple knocks. Matt Adams got the start at first and contributed three hits while scoring a run. Yadier Molina went 2-7 with a tiebreaking homer in the seventh, something that of course didn't last. Pete Kozma got two hits and the RBI in the 12th that Boggs couldn't hold.
I think the Hero tag will go to Daniel Descalso, though. A four-hit night is pretty impressive no matter how many at-bats it takes to get it and two of those hits were doubles, including one in the fourteenth with two outs that gave the Cards another chance, but Shane Robinson was unable to get him in.
All in all, it's not a game that the Cards want to remember long-term. Thankfully the club has an off day today so that everyone can get some rest. If this had been two weeks from now, when the Cardinals were in the middle of a 13-game stretch without a day off, it could have had long term repercussions. With no game today, St. Louis should be able to contain the damage.
After saying it was a bit iffy to see David Freese back on the roster by the home opener on Monday, the Cards backtracked on that yesterday, mainly on the insistence of Freese. Freese will be heading to Memphis to play in games this weekend, giving him the at-bats needed to really see if he's able to be activated from the disabled list. Everything sounds good, Freese says he's not limited by anything, and as a native St. Louisan, it's not surprising he wants to do everything he can to be there for Opening Day. He knows what that is like in baseball heaven and, frankly, if he didn't want to push it to get back, you'd have to wonder what was wrong with him!
As mentioned, St. Louis does have the off day today so there likely won't be a post in the morning. With that in mind, let's go ahead and take a look at the starters for that afternoon tilt against the Giants. (Major plus: with Friday being a day game, no more West Coast late night action for months!)
Jake Westbrook will take the mound for the Redbirds. This hasn't exactly been the best matchup for him in the past.
Hunter Pence has been a Cardinal killer in his career, so it's not surprising to see him on this list. The only person who he's had much success against is Marco Scutaro and I'm pretty sure Cardinal fans wouldn't be hurt if he went hitless this weekend!
Giants counter with Barry Zito. Now, obviously, we know that the numbers don't always tell us something. After all, we expected the Cardinals to, you know, actually be able to hit Zito in Game 5 last year, the turning point of the offseason. While it won't make up at all for last year's failure, getting to Zito on Friday might help assuage feelings a little bit. Still, the numbers aren't all that encouraging.
Molina and Allen Craig (who really has to be careful when he's out in the outfield. I know I wasn't the only person having flashbacks to his injury in Houston when he went sliding into the wall chasing a foul ball last night) have done well in the past against Zito. If Carlos Beltran hadn't had the night off last night, perhaps he'd take a pass here since he's not quite figured Zito out. Then again, there's always a first time!
After hitting the AL and the other two NL divisions, we finally go out west, where the living is easy, but it surely isn't free. At least, not if you want to keep up with the Joneses in LA. Remember, if these don't float your boat, we've got others that will! Continue Reading
For the fifth straight year, Playing Pepper returns to C70 At The Bat. If you aren't aware, this series helps get a feel for the other 29 teams in baseball by asking those that follow them the closest--their bloggers. We've got spring training action going, so it's time to play a little pepper.
San Francisco Giants
94-68, first in the NL West, won World Series
What a difference a catcher makes.
With Buster Posey behind the plate in 2010, the Giants went all the way and bumped off the Rangers for their first title since 1954. Posey then was knocked out of action early in 2011, taking the hopes of Giants fans with him. He returned in 2012 fully healthy and back to normal, cranking out the MVP while leading the Giants to yet another title.
A title that stings Cardinal fans a bit, of course, as the Redbirds were just one win away from back-to-back Series appearances before some strong pitching and a freakish broken-bat hit sent them home for the winter. Do we REALLY have to talk about this team?
In almost every form of entertainment, we know what we are going to get. With rare exceptions, we know that the detective in the book or movie or TV show will wind up apprehending the suspect by the end. We know that the guy gets the girl in a romantic comedy (or just a romantic work in general). We know that things will end more or less satisfactorily in whatever kind of media we watch. Even music does this--it's a strange song that doesn't resolve chords or just ends in what seems to be the middle of everything.
Sports is the one true venue where you really don't know what's going to happen. It's the only true reality show, not edited or filtered or scripted at all. While you can predict based on the past, based on what has happened to other teams in other situations or what these teams have done before, when you sit down to watch a ball game, you don't know what you are going to feel like on the other side.
I think you can forgive Cardinal fans if they've forgotten this aspect of things. Since the new stadium opened, postseason play has almost seemed to be a scripted affair. How else do you get a Game 7 in 2006 in the rain in New York, with a ninth-inning home run from the (at the time) light-hitting catcher, then a bases-loaded strikeout from the rookie closer? After that, seeing their team upset a heavily-favored Tigers squad and being able to win it on their own brand-new field had to seem like it was touched with the Hollywood brush.
Then last year, you had a remarkable Game 5 in the NLDS plus the impossible Game 6 in the World Series. You had all the numerical stuff of 11 wins to get to their 11th championship in 2011. And all of that was on top of a September run to just make the postseason that will be written about time and time again and used as a rallying point as long as baseball is played. How could you not think that things were always going to work out the way we wanted?
This year was the same thing. Most years they'd have been out of contention by middle of August, but that new-fangled second wild-card seemed like the thing you see in the sequel that gives everything a twist. We got to saw a dramatic infield fly (perhaps the first one of those in baseball history) and the team took that game, then came back from 6-0 against the best team in the division to win in the last inning and move on. There was no doubt that we knew what the endings would be. The post-season had become that show you were excited about seeing return from hiatus every year, wondering what the twists would be but feeling assured that they couldn't kill off the main lead.
Then they met San Francisco.
Early on, it seemed like the script would hold. The Cards got out to the 3-1 lead and all it took was one more win. One more win. Surely this team could do that? Surely this team of grinders and scrappers, this team that had made their reputation as a team that you couldn't kill, surely they could take just one more game from these Giants.
Except that the writers apparently went on strike. This postseason reminds us that, in the words of the old commercials, you can't script October. We don't get to write the endings.
Well, this isn't where we thought we'd be in the afterglow of Thursday, is it?
Sadly, it was foreseeable. After all, Barry Zito is one of those lefties that, no matter how much the Cardinals should be able to hit him, he gets out of jams. When they weren't able to break through in the first couple of innings, after plenty of opportunities, you knew that chances were it was going to be one of those nights, one of those frustrating nights that we've seen way too often this season.
That brought us to Game 6, and the way Ryan Vogelsong has been dominating the Cardinals recently, it was going to take an exceptional game by Chris Carpenter to match that. Carp didn't have that in him for this one, though that was to be expected given his physical condition. Maybe the results would have been different with a fully functional Carpenter, rather than one making just his sixth start of the season, but Vogelsong really has had St. Louis's number so it might not have mattered either way.
So, just like a 3-0 count can quickly wind up to be a strikeout, so too has this 3-1 lead from Thursday evaporated like the morning dew. Now, again, it's winner-take-all this evening.
There are a lot of streaks and numbers that are out there. The Cards have won six straight winner-take-all games, with their last loss being in Game 5 of the 2001 NLDS. The Giants have won five straight elimination games this postseason, which has to be a record for one October. (Actually, I see that the Royals won six such games....in 1985. Not a good omen there.) All time, the Cards are 11-4 in Game 7s, the Giants 0-5. 14 times a team has won a Game 6 at home to force a Game 7, and thirteen times that team has won. It's been 40 years since a team has lost in the situation the Giants are in.
Then there's the fact that the only time St. Louis has had a 3-1 lead in the NLCS was 1996. We know what happened there.
I left out 1968 in Friday's post, so there have been three times in the Cardinals history where they've been up 3-1 in a postseason series only to lose. I don't know how many times that's happened overall, but the Cards have a disproportionate share of that history.
Good or bad, history isn't going to take that field tonight. The Giants don't get an extra run because of their recent run in elimination games, the Cardinals don't get any bonus tallies because of last year's Game 6 or this year's Game 5 rallies. It's all on this one game.
Honestly, I don't feel real good about it. Which may be a good thing--I didn't feel good about the Cardinals facing Gio Gonzalez in Game 5 in the NLDS. Which, to be fair, Gonzalez did do a pretty good job and if Davey Johnson hadn't done the inexplicable a couple of times in that game, we might not be talking about this situation. However, they did win that game, so I'm perfectly happy to have them negate any negative feelings I have about this one.
Still, it's a rematch of the rainy Game 3. Kyle Lohse has been superb for most of the season, but what Lohse does tend to do is put runners on. In Game 3, he changed his name to Harry Houdini because out of seven hits and five walks in less than six innings, only one scored. That doesn't even seem to be physically possible and, obviously, you can't count on that happening again. Lohse will have to have his A Game going---and Mike Matheny can't be slow with the hook.
Matt Cain is, well, Matt Cain. The Cards have beaten him before, they've been able to put together rallies against him, but he's still a very good pitcher who will have the adrenaline of Game 7 in front of the home fans going for him. He's going to want that game very badly and will be pitching like it.
The Cardinals have to do two things in this game, in my mind. Score early and keep San Francisco out of the big innings.
Scoring early accomplishes two things. It helps take the crowd out of the game, at least to an extent (and, obviously, multiple runs work better for that than a single tally) and it improves the mindset in the dugout. The last thing we need to see is a scoreless game into the seventh or the Cards trailing by one anytime after the fourth or fifth. The opportunities for a comeback are going to be small, if only because the Giants know what the Redbirds are capable of.
When you look at San Francisco's offense this series, one thing stands out: if you can ever stop the bleeding, you can shut them down. Game 1, they scored all four of their runs in the fourth. Game 2, they scored four of their seven in the fourth. Game 5, four of the five came in the fourth. Last night, they did it early, as four of their six runs came in the second.
While the Giants have added on here and there, getting that elusive third out and stopping a rally could be huge tonight. Unless they've already scored six or seven, St. Louis can not afford to have the Giants put up another four-spot somewhere along the line.
If I were Mike Matheny, I'd be tempted to turn this into a bullpen game. Let Lohse go for three or four, Trevor Rosenthal for two, Joe Kelly for two, then Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte. Don't let the Giants get comfortable with Lohse when you've got flamethrowers, especially if they are able to get a lead.
I always try to look at games as a part of a storyline. What's the way the papers are going to look tomorrow? Seems like about the time the media jumps on an angle, that's when that angle is going to be destroyed. What's been the angle so far this postseason? That the Cardinals can't be killed, that they are this unstoppable force. Which means the irony of the Cardinals getting beat like that, by a team that was down and out but rose from the dead to win, is going to be some rich fare for the sportswriters.
Are the Giants guaranteed a win tonight? Of course not. The Cardinals have a lot of weapons, but the bats are going to have to get on track. It's interesting to see some of the comments coming out of both clubhouses. Lance Berkman says that you dispense with the aura of Game 7 and that heroic moments are just guys playing naturally in a big spot. Bruce Bochy says that "there's no tomorrow", which seems to add to the stage. Does that play into St. Louis's favor? Who knows?
It sounds like Matt Holliday's back will likely keep him out of Game 7 as well, so the starters are going to have to do this. Matt Carpenter was about the only guy on the bench that could be expected to do anything in a pinch-hitting role and he'll be in the outfield or at first base when the lineups are posted. Holliday could perhaps pinch-hit, but would you really expect much out of him if he can't go with a back issue? You could get a Kirk Gibson moment but you don't want to rely on that at all.
Whatever happens tonight, I hope the Cardinals don't regret anything, don't leave anything out there. I hope they have a good approach at the plate, I hope they play a clean game. If they lose after that, you tip your hat to the Giants. If the Cardinals play a game like that, though, there's a strong chance the grounds crew at Busch will have to get those World Series logos down on the field quickly.
In 1985, the Cardinals were up 3-1 on the Kansas City Royals in the World Series. They lost Game 5 at Busch, lost Game 6 on that infamous call and didn't mentally show up for Game 7.
In 1996, the Cardinals were up 3-1 on the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship Series, just one win away from the first World Series appearance since 1987. They lost Game 5 at Busch 14-0, lost a close Game 6 and then got blown out in Game 7.
Suffice it to say, the Cards don't have the best history with 3-1 leads. That said, man, it's tough not to be excited about where they stand right now. A chance tonight to clinch a second consecutive trip to the World Series, something St. Louis has only done twice before (1967-1968 and 1942-1944, three straight during the war). When you are standing on the precipice of history, it's no wonder you want to jump right in.
Really, the only reason the Cardinals are standing on this moment is because of Adam Wainwright. I know, the offense finally broke through and put up eight runs, sending everyone scurrying to a Mobil On The Run this morning. Until the fifth inning, this was starting to look like one of those Redbird games that we've seen so many times before. The Cards put up two on Tim Lincecum early, but could have easily had more. Then, The Freak went into shutdown mode and it looked like another one of those games where the bats are awake early, then get shoved into the freezer.
Even without a lot of backup, Wainwright was, oh man. There aren't words for what that curveball was doing last night, at least not ones that can be used on a family-friendly blog. This was not the Waino of Game 5. This was even better than the Waino of Game 1, though he didn't strike out ten this time, just five. Wainwright was in command all night long, never letting the Giants get a foothold. The home run to Hunter Pence was one of his only mistakes and he even got around a two-out triple by Angel Pagan. Going seven innings, he rested the bullpen, who desperately needed such time off, and put a choke hold on this series. It may be hokey (OK, it is hokey) but last night there was no doubt: Waino was bueno.
It was great to see the bats wake up as well. Like I say, I thought Lincecum was going to wind up getting out of trouble when he settled in after the first. Apparently it just took a few more looks at him, though, because they got to him the third time around, then started picking on the underside of the Giants bullpen. No homers for the Cardinals, but plenty of solid hits and consistent rallies. It was a game that was a ton of fun to watch.
It's behind us now, though. St. Louis has to focus on today, because you never know what will happen if you go back to San Francisco. The Giants had to win three in a row to knock off Cincinnati and they did that in enemy territory. Give them a foothold and let them take the series back home, you could have problems. We've seen Ryan Voglesong shut the team down--if he does that in Game 6, you'd be looking at a winner-take-all and while the Cards have a nice little streak in such games going (starting with Game 7 of the '06 NLCS, they are 6-0), streaks have a way of ending at the wrong time.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they are in pretty good shape for today's game. The Giants were planning on having Barry Zito available out of the bullpen (if that) during this series, but now he's starting their must-win game. Zito did well against St. Louis in his last regular season start against them (two runs in 6.2 innings, in Busch back in August) but historically, it's not been all that kind to the lefty.
Carlos Beltran was apparently healthy enough to pinch-hit last night, though the Cards didn't need him. With these numbers against Zito, it's a good possibility he'll rest again today unless he's just 100%. Allen Craig has looked off this series, but maybe getting to face a pitcher he's dominated will help him get back into the groove.
I would expect that we'd see more of the Lance Lynn we've come to expect today rather than the one from Game 1 of the series. Lynn not only hasn't thrown out of the bullpen like he did in the NLDS, meaning he was likely more worn down for the series opener, he also has had an extra day between starts. A Lance Lynn on target is a very good thing for the Cards, even though the small sample size may say otherwise.
Much of this damage came in August, when he gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings. That was before his stint in the bullpen, before his heart-to-heart with Chris Carpenter, before he came back to the rotation with a renewed focus and effectiveness. I hope that he'll bring that to the mound tonight and I expect that he will.
The Cards can do this. After all, in 2006 the Cardinals got up 3-1 against the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. They won that Game 5. Let's see them win this one as well!
So the Cards were this close to finishing off the Giants for another night when Mother Nature decided to get in on the fun. Right now, the Cards are still sitting in the clubhouse, nursing a 3-1 lead and waiting to put Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma on third and second and Jon Jay in the batter's box. Until then, though, let me see if I can put down a few thoughts about the series and today's game, which I listened to on the way back from a client until the rain delay hit.
One: Where is the offense? I know San Francisco has good pitching, don't get me wrong. I don't think it's a huge surprise to know that the Cardinals haven't been as proficient with the bats. That said, Washington had some hurlers as well and the Redbirds put up some numbers there. The Cards have scored in five (counting today) of their 25 innings. Which is a little better than the three of 18 that they had going before this contest. Seems so often it's a two-out hit, which makes it difficult to get things started, or a hit that just is squandered by nothing coming behind. If Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, David Freese and Yadier Molina could even get partly on track at the same time, this series might look a lot different.
Two: Remember that scene in Star Wars where the admiral lambastes Darth Vader, telling him his sad devotion to that ancient religion hasn't helped him conjure up the stolen data plans? I get that feeling about Mike Matheny and the last three innings of a game the Cards have a lead. No matter how much they've been used, no matter how much other options make sense, Matheny is going to go with Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte.
Today, for example. Trevor Rosenthal gets the last out of the sixth. Trevor Rosenthal is also a starting pitcher that can go more than one out in a game. The pitcher's slot is not due up in the bottom of the sixth. So it would seem logical to let Rosenthal at least start the seventh, see if he can't keep things under control. His power stuff can keep the Giants off balance and then you could go Boggs/Motte or even Mujica/Motte if you wanted to.
However, Matheny goes to the tried-and-true method and it just about burns him. Mujica gets only one out and has two on when he leaves, being bailed out by Boggs. Not only does Boggs have to come in, Matheny goes ahead and double-switches Allen Craig out of the game. Boggs was due up fifth in the bottom of the seventh, so it's not like it was imminent that he was going to bat. Risking losing one of your big bats in a huge game to have Boggs go an inning and two-thirds seems like overcompensating.
Of course, Boggs struck out Hunter Pence and Brandon Belt and Shane Robinson, who came in as part of the double-switch, hit the ground ball that Zombie Marco Scutaro couldn't handle and forced in the insurance run. Remember, that admiral got Force-choked by Vader as well.
Three: I don't consider what Matt Holliday did on that slide to be dirty. I don't think it was right, I think as Holliday remarked afterwards that it was a mistake and he should have slid earlier, but in my mind "dirty" means that there was intent. Accidents aren't dirty. Does that mean Holliday would be exempt from being fined if MLB did that sort of thing? No, and that's fine. But don't call the play "dirty" when Holliday had no intention to injure and has said it was a mistake. Call it a mistake, call it what you want, but I think dirty has to have a legitimate intent to go beyond the norm and to try to harm someone.
Four: It'll be interesting to see who Bruce Bochy calls on for Game 4 tomorrow. I figure it'll be Tim Lincecum, since he didn't have to use him tonight, but Zito did hold the Cards in check the first time he saw them this season, giving up two in 6.2 innings. Lincecum didn't face St. Louis this season. I could see Zito being very tough on this lineup and them being able to get to Lincecum, especially if he doesn't have his good stuff.
Five: We know St. Louis will send out Adam Wainwright, hopefully with a 2-1 lead (the rain has stopped, so I need to write fast). Waino struggled last time out, but was pretty masterful in Game 1 of the NLDS. He'll get an extra day of rest this time around and hopefully he can be back on his game, because he'll need to be.
I still can't believe the Cards have been able to contain Pence in this series and I'm afraid it's going to blow up on them at the worst possible time. He's the only guy who has gone yard off of Wainwright, though, which is some consolation.
Six: Can we please figure out a way to get Brandon Crawford out? Seriously, for a guy that's hitting in the eight hole, he has caused more damage this series than, well, even Buster Posey. Who does he think he is, Pete Kozma? Man hit .248 for the year and now he doesn't seem to be able to be stopped.
Seven: Scutaro has two doubles since his untimely death at the hands of Holliday. If I had much sympathy for him before, I don't anymore.
We're in the seventh, so seven will be where I stop. (Has nothing to do with the fact that more points aren't coming to mind right now and I've got family obligations in a few, not at all.) Here's to the Cards holding this lead and taking another one tomorrow!
I really hate not being around for this week and I hoping that I can find some time to catch up on this series. Here's hoping for a great Kyle Lohse start and some early runs to ease the tension.
If you are going to be going to the games the next couple of days, there are some things that you might find useful.
2012 NLCS at BUSCH STADIUM
St. Louis Cardinals - San Francisco Giants
How Fans Can Enjoy Championship Series Baseball and Rally Support for the Cardinals
ST. LOUIS - October 16, 2012 - As the reigning World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals return home
from San Francisco tied with the Giants (1-1) after the first two games of the best-of-seven NLCS, here are
details on how fans can enjoy the three NLCS games at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. A very limited number of
NLCS tickets may be available - for updated ticket availability, visit cardinals.com/postseason.
HOME GAME 1
NLCS Game 3 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - Busch Stadium - 3:07 p.m. CT (FOX)
12:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Cardinals Official Pre-Game Pep Rally in Ballpark Village (Clark & Broadway)
o Live music from Cosmic Cow on the Budweiser Stage, Budweiser Build-a-Bar, entertainment,
prizes, a Budweiser Clydesdale and more
o Appearances by Fredbird, Team Fredbird and Cardinals Alumni
o Fan photo opportunity with the 2011 World Series Trophy
Gates will open at 1:00 p.m.
42,000 Fans will receive a Rally Towel courtesy of Purina
Pre-Game Ceremony Starts at 2:40 p.m.
o Introduction of both teams to the line and introduction of Cardinals Hall of Famers
o Flag and colors presented by Ft. Leonard Wood
o National Anthem by country music artist Joe Nichols
o Ceremonial pitch by former Cardinals pitcher Danny Cox
o "God Bless America" performed by Retired Navy Petty Officer 1st Class and National
Recording Artist, Generald Wilson.
HOME GAME 2
NLCS Game 4 - Thursday, October 18, 2012 - Busch Stadium - 7:07 p.m. CT (FOX)
4:30 p.m. - 6:30: Cardinals Official Pre-Game Pep Rally in Ballpark Village (Clark & Broadway)
o Live music from Dr. Zhivegas on the Budweiser Stage, Budweiser Build-a-Bar, entertainment,
prizes and more
o Appearances by Fredbird, Team Fredbird and Cardinals Alumni
o Fan photo opportunity with the 2011 World Series Trophy
Gates will open at 5:00 PM
42,000 Fans will receive a Rally Towel courtesy of US Cellular and Missouri Lottery
Pre-Game Ceremony Starts at 6:30 P.M.
o Budweiser Clydesdales
o Major League Baseball Ceremony
o Flag and colors presented by Scott Air Force Base
o National Anthem by singer and former American Idol contestant Nikko Smith
o Ceremonial pitch by Cardinals Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith
HOME GAME 3
NLCS Game 5 - Friday, October 19, 2012 - Busch Stadium - 7:07 p.m. CT (FOX)
4:30 p.m. - 6:30: Cardinals Official Pre-Game Pep Rally in Ballpark Village (Clark & Broadway)
o Live music on the Budweiser Stage, Budweiser Build-a-Bar, entertainment, prizes and more
o Appearances by Fredbird, Team Fredbird and Cardinals Alumni
o Fan photo opportunity with the 2011 World Series Trophy
Gates will open at 5:00 PM
42,000 Fans will receive a Rally Towel courtesy of Edward Jones
Pre-Game Ceremony Starts at 6:30 P.M.
o Budweiser Clydesdales
o Flag and colors presented by Scott Air Force Base
o National Anthem by Matthew Morrison, star of the FOX television show Glee
NLCS Game 6 - Sunday, October 21, 2012 - AT&T Park - 3:45 p.m. CT (FOX) (If necessary)
NLCS Game 7 - Monday, October 22, 2012 - AT&T Park - 7:07 p.m. CT (FOX)(If necessary)
Watching on TV
Fans can watch the National League Championship Series games on FOX (FOX 2 in the St. Louis market).
Fans can also enjoy additional postgame coverage on the Cardinals Live postgame show on FOX Sports
Fans can tune into KMOX (1120 AM) and the Cardinals Radio Network to hear Mike Shannon & John Rooney
call the games, or listen to the national broadcast on ESPN Radio (101.1 FM) or XM Radio.
Online Or On The Go
Fans may follow the games for free on cardinals.com using the Gameday application. From mobile devices,
fans can keep tabs on the score using MLB's mobile app, At Bat 12. At Bat is available for purchase during the
Postseason at $3.99/one-time or $2.99/mo.
Fans who use the app's mobile check-in feature will receive an MLB Shop discount.
Fans can subscribe to Postseason.TV to watch live online companion coverage of the 2012 ALCS. For just
$4.99, fans can watch up to 4 alternate angles at once, choose from up to 10 different fixed camera angles, tune
in for live batting practice, use the pitch by pitch widget, view streaming tweets via Twitter, and use clickable
line scores. The service is available to U.S. & Canada residents only on the computer and supported iOS and
Android devices. LIVE coverage only. No Blackout in the U.S. and Canada. Visit Postseason.TV for all of the
Fans can enjoy extensive postseason coverage on cardinals.com and follow the Cardinals on Facebook at
Facebook.com/Cardinals, Twitter (@Cardinals), Instagram (@Cardinals) and other various outlets. Be sure to
join the Twitter conversation using #12in12, #STLCards, #RED4kids, #Postseason, #NLCS and #WorldSeries.
Learn more about following the ream via social media at cardinals.com/connect.
Driving to the Games
MoDOT will make adjustments to planned interstate closures this week to help Cardinals fans make it to the
game. The exit ramps from eastbound I-64 to 6th and 11th Streets will both be open to allow fans easy access to
the games. Fans coming in on I-70 should remember that the express lanes are closed into downtown while the
gates await repairs. All fans should allow a little extra time to get to the game. Illinois fans heading home will
be able to use the 6th Street ramp to eastbound I-64 after the game to return home. For complete travel
information, contact MoDOT at 1-888 ASK MoDOT or visit gatewayguide.com
MetroLink is a convenient alternative to driving, allowing fans to avoid the cost of parking and traffic.
MetroLink will extend its hours of operation and add additional trains to accommodate Cardinal fans. Metro
will continue MetroLink service until the downtown stations are cleared after the game.
Fans Urged to Organize "Rally Everyone Days" to Support the Cardinals and Kids
The St. Louis Cardinals are encouraging local businesses, schools and other organizations to help kids in our
community while supporting the team by participating in Cardinals RED for Kids (#RED4kids). RED stands
for Rally Everyone Day. Piloted during the 2011 postseason, Cardinals RED for Kids is the team's version of
an office "dress down" day in which participating organizations make a donation to Cardinals Care in exchange
for the opportunity to sport their Cardinals clothes at work or school.
To participate, fans should go to cardinals.com/red to register their organization. While the Cardinals would like
businesses to help raise money while showing their team spirit, schools are not required to make a donation to
get involved. Participating schools, businesses and organizations are also encouraged to submit photos via the
team's website and social media showing their Rally Everyone Day (#RED4kids) spirit.
Busch Stadium Team Store Extends Hours to Meet Demand for 2012 Postseason Merchandise
The Busch Stadium Team Store will extend game day hours to meet the demand for postseason merchandise.
On game days, the Team Store will open at 9:00 a.m., closing briefly 45 minutes prior to gates opening, and
remain open to ticketed fans throughout the game. On non-game days, the Team Store will maintain normal
hours of operation - seven days a week from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. In addition to postseason collection, the store will
also carry a variety of exclusive, affordably priced NLCS items - including long-sleeve and short-sleeve
NLCS t-shirts ($38, $30), an NLCS pennant ($15) and 'Go Cardinals' rally towel ($8). Additional NLCS
merchandise includes caps ($30), t-shirts ($35), lapel pins ($10), baseballs ($12-$36) and mini bats ($10).
Cardinals Authentics: Fans will want to stop by the Cardinals Authentics store in Ford Plaza, the only place to
get official, game-used, limited edition and autographed Cardinals memorabilia directly from the team. Featured
items include game -used equipment from the 2012 season, 2011 World Championship themed items, as well
as items commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the 1982 World Championship. Cardinals Authentics has a
variety of items to fit every budget.
The Definitive Collection of Cardinals Postseason Classics: For the first time anywhere, the ultimate
moments in Cardinals postseason history are ranked and presented in vibrant detail in two companion
publications: the special October edition of Cardinals Magazine and the 2012 Cardinals Yearbook. This
exceptional collection celebrates the very best from the club's illustrious postseason past, with in-depth stories
and rare photos on each of the Top 25 moments from the club's 18 World Series appearances, and a Top 10
from the club¹s playoff-round battles. Pick up both and see where your favorites fall! Order them at
cardinals.com/publications, call 314-345-9303 or visit area grocery and convenience stores.
Ballpark Bites: During the postseason, the Cardinals will sell Gourmet Hot Chocolate outside section 150 and
Gate 6. The hot chocolate, made through a patented process using milk chocolate and whole milk, is garnished
with Prairie Farm whipped topping, drizzled with chocolate syrup and served in a 16 oz. souvenir tumbler with
lid. The Cardinals will also offer three soups for the playoffs including a chicken noodle, beef vegetable and
broccoli with cheese. Served in a lidded 12 oz. cup with crackers, the soups will be sold near section 148 and
Gate 5. Stadium beverages will also be available in souvenir postseason cups.