In 2004, the Cardinals trailed the Houston Astros three games to two in the National League Championship Series. It was a tight affair that went into extra innings, before Jim Edmonds gave the franchise one of its iconic moments, smashing a home run in the twelfth inning, sending the series to a Game 7. Of course, that game was a great one in its own right, with The Catch by Edmonds and the home run by Scott Rolen off of Roger Clemens that send the Cards to their first world series since 1987.
Last night, I tweeted before the bottom of the 11th that "this game really needs a Jimmy E home run." Then David Freese walked to the plate. David Freese, the A-ball player that Cardinal fans thought was a throw-in when the deal was made to send Edmonds to San Diego back in 2007. So as he stepped to the plate and worked the count, I thought about this blog and said to myself, "I could write that story." (Though, obviously, not as well as some of these guys.)
Then Freese swung, and I said to myself, "Do I get to write that story?" That question was quickly answered as the baseball nestled in the grass of the center field batter's eye, quickly scooped up by an exultant fan.
And suddenly, the team that was dead for the umpteeth time in the last couple of months crawled out of that grave and said, "Guys, you are going to have to do better than that to keep us down."
The fan base has called them zombie Cardinals and never did that description seem so accurate as last night. The Cardinals couldn't hold off the relentless Texas onslaught and seemed like it was going to finally put them down. Every time the Cards scored to tie the game, Texas immediately responded. A 7-4 lead in the seventh seemed fairly insurmountable, especially given Texas's bullpen, especially when a rally in the bottom of the seventh fizzled out.
And yet they weren't done. One in the eighth, though they left the bases loaded and seemed to have not quite been good enough. Then, the ninth. Two runs down against Neftali Feliz, one of the best closers in the game. And therein lies the difference between 2010 and 2011. In 2010, the Cards always seemed to make a game of it, always getting the tying run on or to the plate but never being able to cash in. This year, this run, they seem to do it.
Still, you have the tying runs on with Freese up and he's down to his last strike, against a flamethrowing closer looking to get his franchise their first win. The magic is over, right?
As one of those football analysts says, "Not so fast, my friend."
It doesn't last very long, though, as Jason Motte gives up a two-run shot to a Josh Hamilton who is quickly looking pretty healthy. It seemed to unfair, for this team to come back from all of that and then to have that kind of dagger take it away from them.
And yet, in this season of Halloween, you have to beware the zombies.
Two batters get on in the bottom of the 10th. A wild bunt that Kyle Lohse just about beat out (and in other times would have been a double play) moved them over. A groundout by Ryan Theriot got one in, but left the team with two outs.
It did bring Albert Pujols up. If there was anyone that could have made this more cinematic, it was the big guy and Texas knew it, walking him to get to Lance Berkman. It made long-term since, but save Albert's double in the ninth, he hadn't had a hit that wasn't part of Game 3, while Berkman had been one of the best hitters out there. You wonder if things would have been different if they'd gone after AP.
They didn't, though, and when they got two strikes on Berkman, it seemed a smart decision. However, Berkman was able to get a solid single, the tying run scored and we go to the 11th and the dramatics that were waiting there.
(Honestly, as deep as the Texas outfielders were playing, I half expected Pujols to run through whatever sign Jose Oquendo put up and try to make a play at home.)
So pick your Jack Buck quote to apply to Freese's home run:
"We will see you tomorrow night" (Joe Buck actually used this one last night, which was either a classy homage to his father or a travesty of his father's legacy, depending on how you felt about Joe Buck before that.)
Any and all fit. Use them in any combination, because they all apply to a Game 6 that was for the ages.
However, it's not over yet. The two teams have one last showdown, the first Game 7 since 2002 (and of the "this time it counts" era--think C.J. Wilson might get a bit of a staredown due to his allowing that Prince Fielder home run in July? And even though the Cards are getting the benefit, see how nuts that sounds to say?)
Thankfully, the Rangers used Derek Holland last night. While that doesn't necessarily preclude him from playing at some point and time tonight--especially for a key at-bat or key inning, I'd think he'd be in there--that does mean that Matt Harrison will get the call. Not that Harrison is much of a slouch. He did start that Game 3 that was such a blowout, but if the call at first goes a different way, who knows how things would have gone? That said, the Cards were able to hit him, much more than they were able to with Holland.
On the flip side, there's Chris Carpenter. Widely expected to be the starter, Carp would be going on three days' rest for the second time in this postseason. The first time wasn't very successful (though the Cards rallied to win) and Carpenter says he knows now how to adjust for being tired. He's also not coming off of a complete-game shutout like he was in the Philadelphia series, but it'll be the third time Texas hitters will have seen him in just over a week. Familiarity can be a problem at times.
I still wouldn't be completely shocked if Tony La Russa did some sort of switcheroo and started someone like Jake Westbrook, leaving Carp for the middle innings that may be more crucial. There's a plan there, I think, but I don't know what it is. Perhaps they are going to say Matt Holliday is disabled and replace him with Adam Wainwright! (That's a joke, folks. A few people on Twitter took me seriously last night. Even though Waino's rehab is really now done and he begged to be on the postseason roster, the Cards aren't going to let his first game of the year be Game 7 and, honestly, I don't think the organization would take part in that kind of legal-but-not-necessarily-sporting maneuver.
Even though the Cards passed a big test, even though there are stats that put all sorts of odds in the Cardinals' favor, this Series still has one more game to be played. Is this team like the 1991 Twins, who won that first "see you tomorrow night" game and then went on to a classic 10-inning win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 7? Is this team like the 2004 Cardinal squad, who won that tight Game 7 after Edmonds put them there?
Or is this team destined to be remembered with the 1975 Red Sox, who had that iconic moment of Carlton Fisk waving the ball fair, only to lose in Game 7? Or the 2005 Cardinals, who rode Pujols's blast off of Brad Lidge back to Busch, only to be shut down by Roy Oswalt in Game 6 of that NLCS?
We have to wait until tonight to see. No matter the outcome, though, this is a team that will long be remembered in the annals of St. Louis history. These are moments that will never be repeated.
The fairy tale (with zombies! Talk about a mash-up!) still has a couple of pages left in the book. Hopefully we'll get a "happily ever after" out of the deal. It's Albert's last game on this contract in Busch (though I expect he'll be back) so a huge game out of him would be awesome. I'm fine with him using his home run in the first and building a lead instead of holding it off until all hope is almost lost, though. Only so much stress this blogger can take! We'll see you tonight!
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