Saturday, October 29, 2011
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, watching the St. Louis Cardinals crush each other on the Busch Stadium infield grass as confetti flew and wondering how in the name of Albert Pujols they did it.
The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions for the 11th time, most in the National League, and seldom has an improbable team done so much.
SAY WHAT YOU want about manager Tony LaRussa, a man who is hard to love if you aren’t a St. Louis fan. And say what you want about pitcher Chris Carpenter and his abrasive personality. But you have to aim credit where it needs to be aimed and that’s where it goes.
And don’t forget David Freese, a very likable young man who could win the mayorality in St. Louis today. To think, he quit baseball his first couple of years in college to more absorb the academic environment. They wouldn’t have won the NLCS or the World Series without him.
THE CARDINALS WERE 10 ½ games behind in the wild card race on August 25. Not out of first place, out of the wild card race.
They were 7 ½ out with 20 to play. They were three out with five to play. And they passed the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the season.
Was that destiny calling on the telephone, or was it fate. It wasn’t Tony LaRussa asking for a relief pitcher, that’s for sure. But now all is forgiven for LaRussa’s phone foul-up in Game 6.
Then as huge underdogs, the Cardinals beat the Dream Team, the Philadelphia Phillies, in the NLDS. They were also underdogs to the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS, the team that finished ahead of them in the National League Central. And they beat the Brewers, too.
THEN THEY WERE down three games to two, one defeat away from losing it all in the World Series and they would become just a World Series footnote. They were down to their last strike twice in Game 6 and came back twice to tie the game and then win it in the 11th.
The footnote became a full chapter in baseball annals, a Game 6 to remember forever.
IT WAS AN incredibly entertaining World Series and Game 7 Friday was probably anticlimactic — one of the only games that wasn’t filled with drama and thrills and spills.
And why was that? Chris Carpenter made it like that. Even Mother Nature smiled on the Cardinals when Game 6 was rained out and the last two games were pushed back a day each. That enabled LaRussa to hand the ball to Carpenter.
He was pitching on only three days of rest and it didn’t look good in the first inning when the Rangers jumped on him for two runs.
That was it, though. After that, the Rangers were as helpless as a baby in a crib. Carpenter held the Rangers scoreless after that — two runs and six hits in six innings and eventually pushed his postseason record to 4-0.
Destiny? Fate? In the case of Carpenter, it seems it is more guts and heart.
THEN LaRUSSA nearly emptied his bullpen the final three innings — Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte. And they gave up nothing.
Rhodes retired the only batter he faced but it was oh so fitting that this man of 41 who has pitched 20 years in the majors, a guy who was an anchor in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen for two years, will wear a World Series ring.
The Cardinals tied it the bottom of the first on a two-run double on a full count by third baseman David Freese. Freese, who missed a large portion of the season with an injury, was the NLCS MVP and became only the sixth player to win both the NLCS and the World Series MVP.
ALLEN CRAIG, who did most of his damage in the postseason as a pinch-hitter, started for injured Matt Holliday for Game 7 and he broke the 2-2 tie in the third with a home run. Later in the game Craig went above the fence to rob Nelson Cruz of a home run.
Showing that the fates were on the side of the Cardinals this year, they scored two runs in fifth without a hit, without getting the ball out of the infield.
Texas set a World Series record by walkikng 41 batters and two surfaced in that hitless fifth. Scott Feldman walked Craig with one out and hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. Lance Berkman moved the runners to second and third by grounding out to first.
With two outs and first base open, Texas manager Ron Washington had no choice but to walk Freese intentionally to fill the bases, the first time this year Freese has been walked intentionally.
It looked as if Feldman had Yadier Molina struck out on a 2-and-2 pitch, but it was called ball three and he walked on the next pitch to force in a run.
C.J. Wilson came in to pitch and his first offering hit Rafael Furcal to force in another run — two runs, no hits, no balls out of the infield and a 5-2 lead.
Molina singled home the final run of the game in the seventh and the Cardinals bullpen retired the final nine Rangers in a row.
EVERYBODY thought the Cardinals were dead before the season even started when they lost their best pitcher during spring training — season-ending Tommy John surgery for Adam Wainwright, winner of 39 games the previous two seasons.
And injuries mounted during the season. Carpenter was out. Pujols was out. Freese was out. Holliday was out. Even manager Tony LaRussa (shingles) and pitching coach Dave Duncan (personal issues) missed time.
And the Cardinals bullpen was a mess and they ended up releasing closer Ryan Franklin. But at the trade deadline, the Cardinals gave up a budding star outfielder, Colby Rasmus, in a trade that most of the baseball world criticized.
But the Cardinals acquired starting pitcher Edwin Jackson and bullpenners Octavio Dotel and Marc Rzepczyski. Plus they acquired Arthur Rhodes after the Rangers released him.
It was bitter for the Rangers again after they lost last year’s World Series to the San Francisco Giants.
Destiny and fate may have played a role, but the Cardinals added the other necessary ingredients, especially in Game 6 when many teams would have said, “Hey, it’s over. We’re done.”
The Cardinals were never done.Tweet