First, they knocked out America’s Cinderella team in the NLDS. Despite Pittsburgh’s first winning season since 1992, they just couldn’t keep up.
Next came “America’s Team,” apparently. Perhaps the only other team with a comparable history to the Cardinals, the Dodgers boasted two of the best pitchers in the National League.
Our apologies, Dodgers fans, but we’re not really that sorry. Sure, Hanley Ramirez’s effectiveness was reduced thanks to an errant fastball. It wasn’t fair, right? Sure, except the Cardinals were missing a record-setting hitter with runners in scoring position ALL SERIES.
Oh, but Matt Kemp, the MVP runner up two summers ago (even I think he should have rightfully earned that award) has been injured and ineffective? That’s true. And the Cardinals have been missing their starting shortstop the entire season. And two of their three top starting pitchers to begin the season. And their closer. And their All-Star replacement closer.
Teams out of contention make excuses.
Legitimate contenders make plays.
And in Game 6, simply put, the Dodgers didn’t make the plays.
A throw home by Yasiel Puig that may have traveled further than that triple he managed to hit in LA.
A fielder’s choice by Mark Ellis that turned out to be the wrong one.
Wild pitches by the best pitcher in baseball right now.
But it wasn’t all the Dodgers’ fault.
The Cardinals haven’t been the model of consistency this series, but they came through when they had to.
Carlos Beltran making a HUGE catch in right field on Juan Uribe to rob him of a gapper. Cranking out three hits in the first five innings and driving in two runs. You want to see how right field is played, Puig? Watch that man right there.
Shane Robinson, the little-used utility man, managing two hits against Kershaw in his only start thus far this post-season.
Mike Matheny, in his second season managing the Cardinals, setting just the right lineup and rotation to get the team in. This guy could be managing this team for a long time.
And what about Michael Wacha? Not once, but twice outdueling Kershaw. How did 18 other teams pass him in the draft? Not giving up an earned run in the two biggest games of his career thus far. This is the stuff post-season legends are made of. His ERA this whole post-season? 0.43. You can thank Albert Pujols for getting Wacha since he was our compensation pick. So in a way, Pujols helped get the Cardinals to another World Series. Thanks, Albert!
And now the Cardinals stand alone, awaiting the outcome of the ALCS. Either way will be a rematch of a Series within the last ten years. Chances are you’ve seen those articles circling around Facebook and Twitter about hating the Cardinals. Maybe they pissed you off, maybe not. I for one took them in good stride.
Well let them hate.
Let them try to show the Cardinals how to play ball. It’s pretty hard to hear them as they’re sitting at home.
We are Cardinal Nation. And with us come the ghosts of post-seasons past. A triple coming against a no-doubles defense, a Texas leaguer over the infield the next inning. A fly ball into center field, and “We will see you tomorrow night.”
A curveball that fell off the table in New York.
A diminutive shortstop winning the World Series MVP.
A moonshot against Brad Lidge that hasn’t landed yet in 2005.
A home run into the right field bullpen in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS, arms raised in triumph.
A left-handed home run off Tom Niedenfuer to walk off in the 1985 NLCS.
A World Series-record 17 strikeouts against Detroit in 1968.
A mad dash from first to home on a single.
A throw to second to catch Babe Ruth stealing to end the World Series.
This is Cardinals Nation.
4 to go.