The “Because Matheny” Season Ends Because Of Matheny

Really, that was a fitting ending.

Painful, absolutely. Who can’t help but feel sorry for Michael Wacha, pitching for the first time in 20 days and making his 2014 postseason debut in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning with a Giants pennant on the line if they win?

MLB: NLCS-San Francisco Giants at St. Louis CardinalsWacha shouldn’t even have been in that situation — yet obviously he was. Because Matheny.

And what better way to end a 2014 Cardinals season filled with so many frustrating and infuriating and confusing decisions made by Mike Matheny that had no other explanation except “Because Matheny” than with a final “Because Matheny” moment?

The bullpen management in the past two games was just inexplicable. The Giants fan I work with compared Matheny’s rotating through all the relievers in Game Four to a little kid after trick-or-treating on his first Halloween: “Ooooh, this one! No, this one! Now this one!”

Now Game Five and using Michael Wacha in that situation.

Ugh.

Predictable ending? Unfortunately yes in that situation, though perhaps not with Travis Ishikawa delivering the final blow of a walk-off pennant-winning home run to send the Giants to the World Series (of course! It’s an even year!) to face the Cinderella-story Kansas City Royals.

Yes, Matheny has led the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series in each of his first three years as manager. Yes, the 2014 Cardinals won 90 regular season games and were NL Central champs for the second straight year. Yet I don’t believe even the most die-hard Matheny fan out there cannot say Mike Matheny regressed as a manager in 2014.

Ultimately, the season ended last night because of it.

Now I need to end this so I can leave for work. And if the Giant fan’s first words to me this morning aren’t “Thanks, Matheny!” I might have to punch him.

Because Matheny.

October Baseball’s Emotional Rollercoaster

How’s your mood this afternoon, 18 or so hours after yesterday’s NLCS Game Three loss?

Mine is still bad.

Emotional+rollercoaster+_8bb60080880a1600ffe893b9a80a9efbIt wasn’t surprising I was angry about the outcome of last night’s game when I went to bed, even though it was tempered a bit after watching the Royals win. (No, I’m not a Cards fan who hates the Royals. I was a Cubs fan in 1985. I harbor no resentment, plus love a good story — and the 2014 Royals are a fantastic one so far.)

When I woke up this morning, I was still angry and continued to feel that way on my drive to work. My thought was the mood lingered because I knew I had to face the Giants fan at work — a lifelong, die-hard Giants fan who spent Monday and yesterday being mad about Sunday’s outcome.

Yet even after our talk — which literally was a water cooler conversation since he happened to be filling his water bottle when I was going to fill mine — my mood hadn’t changed one bit. I didn’t want to hear his concerns that Posey, Panda and Pence aren’t hitting — your team won the game! Gift-wrapped by Mike Matheny! And your team has had all kinds of gifts given to them this October — just be grateful!

Those were not my exact words — well, OK, some were, like maybe that last sentence. And maybe it wasn’t really a quiet discussion, since my friend in the office next to mine was laughing when I walked back.

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Good, Bad, Ugly, Joy All In Game Two Win

We all love happy game endings — no matter what it takes to get there.

Game2

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch/STLToday.com

Of course, we shouldn’t expect the 2014 Cardinals to do anything different in October than what they did the previous six months before they reached the NLCS, right? Why wouldn’t Game Two of the NLCS be filled with drama and a range of emotions, when it’s this team playing? The Cards had good, bad and ugly before the ultimately satisfying and joyful conclusion of a walk-off 5-4 win over the Giants.

Actually, we probably didn’t expect how they won last night. Four home runs from the team that hit the fewest in the National League during the regular season — even though they had turned on the power in the NLDS against the Dodgers.

You really can’t script October.

Although, if we could, we certainly wouldn’t want any kind of story to include an injury to Yadier Molina.

But that unfortunately happened, as a strained left oblique forced him from the game in the sixth inning. No update on his condition yet today, but we all know that kind of injury takes time to heal.

The game was tied 2-2 when Yadi left, after the Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the first on (who else but) Matt Carpenter’s solo homer and a 2-0 lead with a bases-loaded Randal Grichuk single. Both obviously contributed to the “good” portion of the game. Continue reading

Cards NLDS Win Is So Much Deja Vu

The Cardinals against Clayton Kershaw — again.

The Cardinals trailing the Dodgers in the seventh inning — again — with Kershaw dominating — again.

Matt Holliday leading off the seventh with a single off Kershaw, followed by Jhonny Peralta singling — again.

A big hit by a Matt to stun Kershaw and the Dodgers and give the Cardinals the lead — again.

In Game Four, however, it was Adams instead of Carpenter — and he launched a no-doubt-about-it-even-Joe-Buck-got-crazy-excited-3-run-bomb into the Cards bullpen (which of course you want to see again and again even though you’re already watched it countless times).

Oct7

Another classic Cardinals postseason home run, this time from Matt Adams (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huy Mach)

In the ninth inning, Trevor Rosenthal in for the save and makes it interesting — again.

Yet that’s a winner — again!

And a win that’s a division series clincher — again, like in 2013. And 2012. And 2011. Continue reading

And Now Another Amazing October Friday Win

Friday nights in October seem to be made for the St. Louis Cardinals.

Looking back over the most memorable postseason games since 2011, some of the best were on Fridays. Game Five of the 2011 NLDS and the masterful performance by Chris Carpenter. Game Seven of the 2011 World Series (nothing more needs to be said about that, obviously!) The wacky and weird wild card game in 2012 against the Braves. Game Five of the 2012 NLDS with that incredible comeback against the Nationals.

Game1

Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Then there was last October and Game Six of the NLCS, Cardinals up in the series 3-2. One more win against the Dodgers, though it would have to be a win against Clayton Kershaw — would send the Cards to the World Series. Kershaw gave up 7 of the runs scored by the Cards in the 9-0 pennant-clinching victory. No doubt a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Clayton Kershaw would never have that kind of night in the postseason again …

Especially in 2014, after his not just Cy Young but possibly MVP-worthy season in which he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.

Especially when Adam Wainwright unfortunately had a Game-Five-of-the-2012-NLDS-like night and allowed 6 runs to the Dodgers, leaving in the fifth inning with the Cards down 6-1.

Especially when Kershaw, after allowing the first-inning home run to Randal Grichuk then retired 16 straight Cardinals and struck out seven until Matt Carpenter homered to make it 6-2 in the top of the sixth.

Then came the seventh inning. Continue reading

It’s The Postseason! Here Comes The Cardinals Bashing Again!

After breathing a sigh of relief on Sunday after the Pirates lost to the Reds (and ignoring just how it happened) and then watching the Cardinals celebrate their second-straight NL Central championship, we fans can now just relax and enjoy and wait for the National League Division Series to begin on Friday. Right?

stlSure … as long as we ignore what’s now become an annual ritual: Cardinals bashing.

Ah, yes, tomorrow is October. Time to mock the Cards, and Cards fans!

And it begins with no less an astute publication than the Wall Street Journal, which published “The 2014 Baseball Playoff Hateability Index” yesterday. Although I’m not exactly sure we can call this quite the astute publication it used to be. Right now, on the WSJ.com website, the second-most popular video — right after “Aerial Drone Captures Scale of Hong Kong Protests” — is “George Clooney, Amal Alamuddin Wed in Venice” (which you can find here, if you’re so inclined).

Hmmmm.

Anyway, back to the Journal’s so-called hateability “index.” The words are in quotes because, really, how fair can it be when one of the criteria applies specifically and only to Cardinals fans? Not that we necessarily always call ourselves the (now trite) best fans in baseball, but of course the Cardinals are who most people will think when seeing a questions that reads “Are fans routinely labeled ‘best in baseball’?”

Shockingly (ha ha ha), the Cardinals are the only one of the 10 teams listed to earn a point in that category — and the more points, the more hateable the team. You really can’t do better than that, Wall Street Journal? Continue reading

Here We Go, Game 162

So here we are, Game 162.

National League Central: not yet clinched. The opportunity was there for the Cardinals to do so last night, following the Reds walk-off grand slam victory over the Pirates yesterday afternoon. Yet Mark Trumbo’s three-run homer that gave the Diamondbacks a 5-2 lead over the Cards in the seventh inning last night was the difference in the game.

It’s down to today’s regular season finale now.

Do we root for Johnny Cueto, who’s starting this afternoon against the Pirates and going for win No. 20, in the game that begins at 12:10 p.m. Central Time?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Cincinnati Reds

Yes, Cueto certainly is laughing at the idea that the Cardinals and Cards fans are wanting him to succeed today …

Or do we, as we’ve done since 2010 anyway, ignore and/or wish the worst for Johnny Cueto because he is Johnny Cueto and just know that Adam Wainwright will get the job done anyway when the Cardinals take on the Diamondbacks at 3:10 p.m. Central Time? Continue reading

Whatever Happens, It Won’t Be A Surprise

Here we are, the final weekend of the regular season. The Cardinals are playing in the postseason — this much we know. So are the Pirates.

What we don’t yet know, unfortunately: the National League Central champion.

Standings 9-25The standings tell the story — and the Cardinals, to be trite, control their destiny. That’s been the case since we started counting down the magic number to win the Central. Just keep winning and there’s nothing to worry about.

Except they haven’t won as much as we would like. Since last Saturday, when their victory over the Reds and the Pirates loss to the Brewers gave the Cardinals a 3 1/2 game division lead and reduced the magic number to five, the Cards have lost three of four. The Pirates have won four of five.

Thus the one-game lead and magic number of three with just tonight, tomorrow and Sunday left to play. Continue reading

Once Again, The Cardinals Shine In September

It’s September. Here come the Cardinals!

SeptemberYes, September has become the St. Louis Cardinals month in recent years. That, of course, has led them right into October baseball for the past three seasons. And, at this stage, it would take something beyond extraordinary for that streak to not reach four straight years — the magic number for playing in the postseason is now just one. [UPDATE: Thanks to the Pirates beating the Brewers this afternoon 1-0, the Cards are officially in!]

Last night’s 8-4 Cardinals victory over the Reds was their 14th win this month, to go with just five losses. Speaking of five, that’s the magic number for clinching the NL Central — and it’s the magic number that means something, since it guarantees playing in the division series. Only seven games remain in September, yet the Cards still have just a 3 1/2 game lead over the second-place Pirates. They’ve had a good September as well, going 12-6 thus far, which is why the Cards’ magic number isn’t decreasing as quickly as it could.

Still, this month has been the Cardinals’ time to shine going back to the “September to remember” in 2011. Continue reading

Even With Losses, Odds Still In Cardinals Favor

For 10 glorious games, the nightcap on Aug. 30 until Sept. 8, the St. Louis Cardinals lived up to everyone’s expectations.

9-12-14They went 9-1, compiling two wins via shutout (including a tense 1-0 victory against the Pirates to sweep the series), one win by 11 runs, another by 8 runs and came back from a 5-0 deficit to victory. The one loss, to the Brewers, ended Milwaukee’s nine-game losing streak — something that was bound to stop at some point. Best of all, and thanks to that Brewers streak, the Cardinals saw themselves rise from one game back in second place in the NL Central to a 4 1/2 game lead. Magic number countdowns began — 19 on down to 14.

Finally! What we’d waited for through all the Mathenaging of 2014 was at last here!

Now there’s today, Sept. 12.

Magic number stuck at 14 since Tuesday. Three straight losses for the first time since that great streak of 10 games began on the evening of Aug. 30 — plus three straight losses to the Reds, who hadn’t won three in a row since early August. The Mathenaging of Mark Ellis as a pinch-hitter against Aroldis Chapman in those three losses, two of which Ellis ended by (surprise!) striking out, including yesterday in a 1-0 game after Matt Holliday walked. Division lead now 2 1/2 games since the Pirates, after that sweep by the Cardinals, swept the Cubs and took three of four from the Phillies.

Just another bump in the pothole-filled road that is the 2014 Cardinals season?

In all likelihood, yes.

Especially when you take a closer look at what little of the season remains.

Continue reading