I started Monday off with a dead battery in my car. I ended Monday with a dead battery in my team.
After Game 3, Cardinal fans were riding high. Albert Pujols had a career--make that historic--night and things were looking good. After Game 4, Cardinal fans tipped their cap to Derek Holland and realized that a 2-2 tie wasn't too bad with Chris Carpenter going the next night.
Nobody told us that it wasn't just Holland. It was more that the May Cardinals had returned.
Multiple opportunities to score wasted? Check. Double plays of all sorts and sizes? Check. Carpenter getting no run support? Check. A bullpen stumble? Check.
Look at this Series without Game 3. The Cardinals have scored six runs in four games. Pujols doesn't have a hit, I don't believe. The starting pitching has been very good, but the bullpen has two losses on its record. These are not the things that inspire confidence in a team.
As for last night, there is plenty of blame to go around, including communication equipment, apparently. My focus really is on Matt Holliday. Three times the Rangers intentionally walked Pujols to get to Holliday. Here's what happened:
Top of third: Pujols walked, meaning first and third with one out. Holliday grounds into a double play.
Top of fifth: Pujols walked, meaning first and third with two out. Holliday grounds out to shortstop.
Top of seventh: Pujols walked, meaning runner on first with two out. Holliday singles, moving Pujols to third and himself to second on the throw.
The seventh would have worked out if David Freese could have gotten a bases loaded hit with two down, but he couldn't. Still, that third inning really gets me. A fly ball, a groundout to the right side, something to get that run in besides a double play.
Of course, you have the bullpen issue, leaving in Marc Rzepczynski to face Mike Napoli (who will almost certainly be named MVP of the Series if the Rangers win, causing much more gnashing of teeth among Angels fans) because the bullpen coach heard "Lance Lynn" instead of "Jason Motte" and didn't have Motte ready to go. Which lead to the first pitching change to issue an intentional walk only.
How in the world this kind of mistake happens is almost inconceivable. What did Tony say, "Get me the beard" and they thought Lynn's scruff counted? Forget the bullpen phone, let's get flags for the dugout to wave. Red means Motte, green means Fernando Salas, the striped one means Rzepczynski. Why not? It's not like it's a big secret who they have asked for.
The ninth was all sorts of problems. Allen Craig, who'd already been cut down on a failed hit and run, took off with the count 3-2 on Albert with nobody out. Apparently AP called his on his own and if he'd been disciplined enough to go through with it, it'd been no harm, no foul. Instead, Pujols swung through ball 4, Craig is out and what had been a rally was snuffed out. Holliday walked next, but Lance Berkman struck out and was out by a step at home when the ball got away, a step that was probably the result of him not leaving out of the box immediately due to not being sure what had happened.
All in all, it was the ugliest game from all facets, hitting, pitching, managing. The only person to come out unscathed, really, is Chris Carpenter, who threw a heck of a game. He made two mistakes, one that Mitch Moreland put into the upper deck and one that Adrian Beltre hit while falling down. (Seriously, still not sure how Beltre hit that one that hard while landing on one knee.) Other than that, he took care of business in a manner befitting the ace of the staff. He deserved a much better fate.
Another unheralded point? Texas's defense is really good. If the Rangers win this series, it's going to be because they have made significant plays in the field. We've seen a game-saving play in every one of Texas's wins and David Murphy's catch to end the third might have saved another run and possibly been the difference.
Instead of those famous happy flights, the last trip of the season is a crappy flight. The Cards head home bloodied, but hopefully unbowed. There's still hope in this situation, even as we smart over the Game 5 loss.
You want hope? Let's talk hope. This wouldn't be a perennial nominee for Most Optimistic Blog in the Cardinal Blogger Awards if I couldn't give you some hope, now would it?
Let's talk about the fact that this isn't necessarily the biggest obstacle this team has faced this season. We know they were 10.5 games back and have extended their season beyond anyone's wildest dreams. We know that the Cards were down 1-0 to Philadelphia in a best of five and trailed Game 2 by four runs, but were able to respond. So far, this team has played its best baseball with no margin for error. In fact, the World Series was the only postseason series that they HADN'T trailed in, getting down twice to Philadelphia (forcing them to win two games in a row, one on the road) and trailing Milwaukee as well. They can rally.
You have Jaime Garcia going in Game 6 back in Busch Stadium. We saw what Garcia did the first time around and we know how well he does at home. If he can handle the pressure of an elimination game, if he can keep from coming unglued if something goes wrong, the Cards should be able to take that game. Colby Lewis did pitch well against Garcia in Game 2 and goes again in this one, but the Cards could and should be favored.
That gets you to a Game 7, where you never know what can happen. TLR will be using every body he can, mixing and matching since there's no tomorrow. So far, since the All-Star Game has "counted", there's not been a Game 7 and the home field advantage has never come into play. There's a first time for everything, and imagine how nuts things would go if Pujols hit a walk-off home run to win the World Series. As much as I'd hate to validate the ASG being tied to home field, I'm good with that.
Even if the Cardinals fail in this quest, though, there's a lot to be proud of. I got a NL Champions t-shirt this weekend and, while I've never rooted so hard for a piece of clothing to be dated, I'll be proud to wear it for a long time to come, because this team represents never giving up, fighting for what you want, never letting the odds determine what you do. Does this team still have that in them? We'll find out Wednesday night.
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