It's a phrase that Tony La Russa likes to use a lot. He may not want to say that Player A is the best, but he'll say he's "tied for first." Personally, if there's anyone out there that wants to start a Cardinal blog, "Tied For First" is a great title for it, in my opinion. Now, at least when it comes to the wild card, we can finally say that the Cards are tied for first.
It sure didn't look like it was going to be that way. Jake Westbrook did his best Goat imitation, giving up five runs in less than three innings. With the score 5-0, it looked like the Cardinals, as has been their nature at times this year, had again fallen flat and missed an opportunity, as Atlanta was in the process of being stomped by the Phillies as well.
However, the offense that had been dormant since the blown save against the Mets showed back up, and just in time. Immediately after allowing the Astros their runs, the Cards came back and tied the game in one inning, thanks to Skip Schumaker's bases-clearing double. I was wondering if they were able to be patient and start beating on Henry Sosa, and they finally did. When the parade of relievers started, you knew that the Cards had the advantage, and they eventually capitalized on it.
We'll give Nick Punto the Hero tag for his four hit night, including a home run. (Ironically, in his first at bat I told my daughter it was unlikely he'd hit a home run since he had zero on the year. I'm doing just great with my "expert" analysis down the stretch.) He wasn't the only one that had a big night, though. Allen Craig came in for Matt Holliday and showed that there wasn't any drop off. Lance Berkman had three hits as he continued to torment his old team. Ryan Theriot had another big blow, a two-run triple that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the night.
Then there's the bullpen, who did an outstanding job all the way around last night. Mitchell Boggs stopped the bleeding that Westbrook caused. Marc Rzepczynski struggled some, loading the bases with nobody out, but got a big double play and allowed only the one run. Eduardo Sanchez, who hadn't pitched in the big leagues since June, came in and was dealing, striking out two of the four batters he faced. If he's back, that's going to be a big boost during potential postseason play. Fernando Salas and Octavio Dotel were solid, and Edwin Jackson even got a chance to pitch an inning, allowing a couple of hits but not letting them score.
Possibly the only disappointment, save from Westbrook's implosion (and hey, aren't we glad we have him for another year?), was the fact that Albert Pujols went 1-6 with no RBI. His average is sitting right on .300, meaning he needs probably a couple of hits to keep that mark tonight. It looks like he'll come up short on the RBI side without a big blow tonight as well. He's four for 22 since getting to 98 RBI, which either means he's pressing or he hit the worst-timed slump possible. Of course, if he cracks a two-run homer in the first, we'd all be happy. (I tried this yesterday with no luck, so we'll try it again.) AP may also get another shot at the marks, as any wild-card play-in game would count toward the regular season statistics.
When the bloggers, Twitterers, and other social media types gathered in St. Louis on August 25, we thought we were just going to get a chance to enjoy a baseball game and then start a relatively boring September. Instead, 30 games later the Cardinals have enjoyed a September for the ages, a September that will be talked about in Cardinal Nation for years to come, invoked anytime a team is on the fringes of a race. "It could happen," we'll say. "Remember 2011."
That said, the example will hold much more punch if the Cards can finish the job. Erasing a 10.5 game deficit is nice, but if you lose out on the final day, it's probably more devastating than if you'd lost it somewhere in the middle of the month.
There's no doubt, though, that if you had to pick one pitcher on this staff to pitch in a lose-and-go-home type game, it'd be Chris Carpenter. Carpenter has the big game experience and has the deserved reputation of being able to come up big when things are on the line. With Adam Wainwright on the shelf, there's no other option that's more appealing.
Carpenter has been able to shut down the Astros in his career, though there are a few of these guys he's not faced yet. Here's what the numbers look like:
Albert's had success against him and Skip has as well, but the others are more hit and miss. Holliday is out with a recurrence of that finger issue, which is too bad since he has good results against Myers as well. Hopefully a day or two of rest and Holliday will be back in there if the Cards head to Philadelphia this weekend.
St. Louis is right now living the dream. Let's just hope they don't wake up until they are popping champagne corks this evening.
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