HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?
Seriously. What are the odds?
Last year’s run to the title was incredible because, quite frankly, the odds of it happening were incredibly slim. “We’ll never see another post-season like this again,” some said.
Apparently, some may have spoken too soon.
This was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel.
Gio Gonzalez, the presumed front-runner for the Cy Young with a 21-8 record and a 2.89 ERA, the co-ace of the Nationals’ staff this season, the game 5 starter.
Adam Wainwright, coming back from Tommy John surgery, but twice a top-3 finisher for the Cy Young.
Two bullpens stocked with young arms capable of throwing mid-90’s.
Only it didn’t play out that way. Wainwright displayed little command. That curveball that he used for nine of his ten strikeout victims Sunday was rocked. Adam left after giving up six earned runs in 2.1 innings. For at least a night, those pops people heard in D.C. weren’t gunshots, they were champagne corks being popped early.
Someone forgot to tell these Cardinals, though. Slowly but surely, they did what they’ve done all season: they fought back.
And how else could it have happened? By the time the ninth came around, you just knew something was going to happen, didn’t you? It HAD to be with two outs, two down, two on, two strikes on the batter. Daniel Descalso, the light-hitting second baseman who had all of four home runs and 26 RBI all season, facing Drew Storen, whose fastball averaged 94.5 miles an hour, HAD to get the game-tying hit off him. Cardinals fans love these little heart-and-hustle guys; who else could it have been?
Well, that got answered a batter later. Pete Kozma (the Kozmanaut), the first-round pick by the Cardinals in 2007, the career .236 hitter in the minors who’s somehow managed to slash .333/.383/.569 this year, lined a hit down the right field line.
I swear, someone hit the mute button on Nationals Park.
I don’t think anyone even had to watch the end. Yeah, the Nationals had the top of their lineup coming up, but who’s gonna come back from THAT?
Nobody. That’s who.
So many questions remain.
So many variables.
So many heroes tonight. Descalso and Kozma understandably will get the limelight, but there were others.
Carlos Beltran went 3-3, walked twice, and scored two runs.
David Freese had two hits and walked in the top of the ninth to give Descalso his big chance. Maybe he didn’t want to hog the limelight?
Matt Holliday’s had a very rough series this NLDS, but he, too, managed to contribute with two RBI. Even though he’s struggling, he still drove in four in the series.
Undoubtedly, though, the unsung heroes of this game will be the bullpen. Forced to pitch 6.2 innings, young arm after young arm came in and shut the Nationals down.
Kelly with 1.2 scoreless innings. Rosenthal with two strikeouts (what an arm on this guy). Mujica pitching out of trouble. Boggs setting up Motte with a scoreless seventh. Even Motte, who gave up a run in the eighth, rebounded and pitched a second inning, getting the Nationals’ top hitters to go down 1-2-3.
And now the Cardinals head to the NLCS, facing the San Francisco Giants starting on Sunday. Questions about the rotation remain as well as the inconsistent offense, but let that wait.
Of course this team had to set a record along the way. The 6-run deficit they erased is the largest deficit a team’s ever overcome in a series-deciding game in the MLB post-season.
Of course the Cardinals had to do it.
The bullpen stepped up.
Descalso stepped up.
Kozma stepped up.
4 down. 8 to go.