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!
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