On August 25th, the Cards stood 10.5 out of the wild card race. The team had never put together any kind of run and both the team and the fanbase seemed to be in a general malaise, just waiting for October to get here.
Now, here we are less than a month later and that same team that never could put together a run, who didn't know what momentum meant even if they had a dictionary, that team is now just a game and a half behind the Atlanta Braves for a playoff slot.
The whole mindset of this team and the fans has changed. The last couple of nights, especially last night, when the Cards have gotten down the thought hasn't been "well, they are doomed" but more "how are they going to win this one." A team that you used to could count out if they were down in the early innings now is much more likely to actually "play a hard nine."
As our hero David Freesesaid, "Losing is not an option, and we know that." Not only do they know it, but they are actually doing something about it.
Freese's three-run home run (plus his two-run triple earlier in the game) give him the Hero tag, of course, but for the second straight night it's an Albert Pujols two-out base hit in the seventh that gets the winning rally started. Two batters later, the Cards are winning and Busch Stadium is going nuts. It was also a two-out rally in the first that Pujols started. It just shows that this lineup, like we thought back in the spring and now are finally seeing, really doesn't have many holes. Even getting two outs quickly doesn't guarantee a pitcher an easy inning.
Good night for Yadier Molina as well, as he got two hits to get his average to an even .300. You also have to really appreciate Jaime Garcia. He had a glitch in the third where he gave up four runs, though an error was the largest reason behind that. Garcia did show his customary trouble, though, unable to finish off after something had gone wrong behind him. After the third, though, he got back on track and went into the eighth, resting the bullpen and keeping the Cards in it.
The Goat has to be Rafael Furcal. Not only did he go 0-3 in the leadoff slot, but it was his error that allowed the Mets their runs. If he can pick up that grounder, the Mets are scoreless for most of the game. He didn't and for a while there that looked like it could have been the difference between a win and a loss. He's not a double agent for his old Atlanta team, is he?
Something I heard on the FSMW broadcast last night really stunned me. Furcal has nine errors since coming to the Cardinals. Nine in seven weeks seems like an awful lot to me. Sure, Furcal has made plays that Ryan Theriot or anyone else that spent time at short wouldn't have made and it's possible that some of those errors are on balls the others wouldn't even get to, but it also seems like a few of those errors have been on routine balls.
Which would be more tolerable if he was hitting, of course. He is somewhat--he's at .260 with a shocking six home runs since joining the Cards--but I'm not sure if that's enough for what the Cards are looking for out of him. The move was defense first, and if the defense is slipping, that could be a problem. I'm not saying that you remove him in this last week, far from it, but it may be that the Cards don't want to get that enamored of signing him to an extension.
Jason Motte has also struggled a little bit lately, as he gave up a home run to Willie Harris. (By the by, that catch Harris made on Lance Berkman's rope with the bases loaded was huge, especially when it looked like it might have made the difference in the game.) Motte's struggles are a bit worrisome as you never want to cough up a lead in the postseason, but hopefully it's just a temporary glitch. I also don't think Tony La Russa has any compunction about removing Motte at the first sign of struggle, knowing how important these games are.
Cardinals' odds are still slim--they are at 18.3% or 34.6%, depending on which site you want to use--but being that they were down around 1% at the beginning of this run, you have to like the increase. They are definitely tracking in the right direction.
Atlanta is off today, so you know that Fox Sports Midwest is going to have a few extra viewers for this afternoon tilt against the Mets. (How tough is it for Braves fans to root for the New York squad, huh?) The Cardinals send out Jake Westbrook to see if they can't pull within a single game of the Bravos. Here's Westbrook's numbers against these guys:
Limited samples, but he's done OK against them. Keeping Jose Reyes contained would be the biggest thing. I'm sure TLR would love Westbrook to go six or seven, but with a bullpen that didn't get used yesterday, he's likely to have a quick hook.
Chris Capuano goes for the Mets. The Cards saw a lot of him when he was in Milwaukee and, well, they liked what they saw.....
Albert is probably salivating at this matchup. Could he get to 100 RBI today? Berkman and Furcal have done well also. Heck, they are probably double checking with Matt Holliday to see if he can play as well!
Every game from now on is big, but if the Cards win today, they've got a strong chance of tying for the wild card on Friday, when the Braves face Stephen Strasburg while the Cards take on the Cubs with Chris Carpenter on the mound. Afternoon start, so be sure to get your radio and/or TV ready. The Cardinals are coming, tra-la, tra-la!
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball