Five Years Ago Tonight: Clinching The Wild Card

Ah, Game 162! That epic final night of the 2011 regular season, when the triumphant comeback of the Cardinals and monumental collapse of the Braves was complete, yet was just one part of a fantastic evening. (Though obviously the part we as Cards fans cared about the most.)

Experience again MLB’s highs and lows from the evening here (it’s worth the 12 minutes, especially to see bits of Chris Carpenter’s performance — plus isn’t it always nice to see the Red Sox complete their collapse? And the Braves as well?). Then continue on below to read what was published here five years ago about Game 162, which made the “September to remember” complete. That final sentence is rather prescient in retrospect, if I do say so myself. (OK, only because we know the final fairy-tale ending. Still …)

That’s A Historic Comeback Winner!

The comeback climb is finished, and in the best way possible — the Cardinals are the Wild Card Champions!

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

The details are so familiar now: on the morning of Aug. 25, the Cards were 10 1/2 games behind the Braves. They’d just been swept by the Dodgers — Aaron Miles’ revenge — and were 67-63.

The the winning began, with that 8-4 Social Media Night victory over the Pirates. The winning continued. And now, history.

Making the playoffs after trailing by 10 1/2 after 130 games is, according to Fox Sports Midwest, the biggest comeback in history. No. 2 on the list? The 2011 Tampa Bay Rays, who are the AL Wild Cards Champs following their own stunning win in Game 162. At one point they’d been 9 games back. Third on the list? The 1964 Cardinals, who trailed by 8 1/2 games before propelling themselves to the National League pennant.

The Cardinals’ win was achieved without any of the tension or drama of Tuesday night. They took command from the very beginning, with five straight hits to open the game. Albert drove in the first run for RBI No.99, and the scoring continued until Nick Punto drove in run No. 5. Chris Carpenter came to bat before even taking the pitchers mound — always a good sign.

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Show Us a Tragedy, and We’ll Write You About Our Hero

There was a boy in the stands, tousled jet-black hair, wide-open dark eyes, mouth open, scarcely believing he’s watching his hero pitching against the Washington Nationals one week ago today.

694940094001_5140533466001_mlb-star-jose-fernandez-2-others-killed-in-boat-cOne kid, watching another kid tease back and forth with the umpires, one kid watching the other kid’s big smile visible from the farthest reaches of Marlins Park, competing with that garish contraption beyond the outfield fence for electric wattage.

The boy with his oversized jersey with his hero’s name across the back, the large 16 under it, cap that barely fits.

Oh, how we envy that boy, look at him, all energy, squirming, hopping around in his seat, slapping the little glove he brought in case a foul ball comes his way, he’s ready. The boy, he’s pointing and shouting at his dad with every strikeout from his hero. That boy, he’s going to grow up watching one of the finest pitchers to take the mound in the history of the sport. He’s going to be able to tell his grand kids about the tall, strong Cuban who played this hard game with such infectious passion.

Did you see what that boy saw? Twelve strikeouts in eight innings against a team a handful of days away from claiming a division title. That’s right, 12. His hero sliced through the Nationals lineup, and had FUN doing it. Did you see his hero in the top of the eighth, in a 1-0 game, with runners at first and third with two outs? Did you see his hero’s mom, on her feet, as the TV camera zoomed in, fanning herself in the excitement. That’s her nino, her hero who saved her in that oft-told story that’s reached the point of fable of the 15-year-old boy who saved her from hostile waters, saved her as they escaped for a better life in a country of dreams.

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Five Years Ago Today: The Walk-Off Wild Pitch

Ah, September 2011 … how we miss you. And 2011 Cubs, how we miss you as well.

Before this afternoon’s Cardinals-Cubs contest gets underway, let’s take a trip back to a happier time. Sure, it tense and crazy as the Cards were battling for a wild-card spot five years ago — but it was so different than today, in so many ways. (Better in some ways too … like the standings.)

The come-from-behind walk-off-wild-pitch win is one of those memorable moments from the magical September run of the 2011 Cardinals. And, five years later, Carlos Marmol remains the Cardinals star of that game.

Here’s the AMF post from five years ago. (Check out the link at the very end too.)

Whatever It Takes To Win

star of gameThe bottom of the ninth inning in today’s game was every baseball cliche imaginable. It literally was a must-win, do-or-die game to keep alive the Cardinals hopes of catching the Braves in the wild card race. They honestly were down to their last strike — not once, not twice, but three times.

And they did it. They won, 2-1 … in the most unconventional way imaginable.

The game until that point was a frustration. The Cubs had scored their run in the first inning on three singles, half of the hits that Kyle Lohse allowed during his seven innings of work. He struck out eight, walked none and, at one point, retired 10 Cubs in a row. Meanwhile, the Cardinals only had four hits off Rodrigo Lopez through his six innings and had been retired in order by Andrew Cashner and Sean Marshall.

The Cardinals bullpen settled down from its challenges the past two games — Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte retired all six batters they faced in the eighth and ninth. Continue reading

Five Years Ago Today: Albert’s Fractured Forearm

NOTE: While the Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals five years ago yesterday, it’s doubtful most of us remember that outcome. Instead, what we remember is this collision between Albert Pujols and Wilson Betemit that forced Albert from the game and onto the disabled list. Five years ago today, we learned the injury was a non-displaced fracture of the left radius and he was supposed to miss four to six weeks — and we soon learned timelines like that meant nothing to Albert, since he was back when his initial 15 days on the DL were up. Still, it was kind of a big deal at the time — as the post below will indicate. You also can read about some names you probably wanted to forget, like Brian Tallett and Miguel Batista. And, as a result of Batista being in the game, there also was a poem. Ah, Poems For The Poet — those were the days … 

Painful Win For Cardinals

Skip Schumaker delivered an improbable walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading the Cardinals to their second consecutive 5-4 win over the Royals. The victory moved the Cards back into a tie for first place in the NL Central.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday's finale against the Royals.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday’s finale against the Royals.

The bigger story, however, is Albert Pujols and what happened in the top of the sixth. The details, from Austin Laymance of Cardinals.com:

The inning after his homer gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base towards the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he made contact with a charging Betemit.

“He hit me in the wrist and shoulder and kind of jammed it back,” Pujols said. “As a first baseman it’s one of the toughest plays to make, it’s almost a bang-bang play and you can’t let the ball go. You risk it and, hopefully, don’t get hurt.”

But Pujols got hurt, and as the slugger went to the ground in obvious pain, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.

The initial report is that Albert has a sprained wrist, and he will be having further tests today. Given the Cardinals history with injury diagnosis — Allen Craig’s broken kneecap not being revealed via x-ray until a week after it happened being just the latest example — perhaps we have reason to worry. Or perhaps not, according to Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch: Continue reading

Remembering Darryl Kile

Fourteen years ago tonight was Darryl Kile’s last game, which we obviously did not know at the time. Two years ago, I published this post. It is the most-read post ever at AMF, which touches me, and received a multitude of comments — including one from Flynn Kile Jensen — and I wanted to share it again (particularly since it’s already received quite a few views today).

darrylkile

Five Years Ago Today: Chris Carpenter’s Bad Luck Continues

NOTE: When we think of Chris Carpenter’s 2011 season, we mostly remember the latter part of the year and especially October and tend to overlook the early part of the season — like the ERA that was in the 4’s throughout May and June and the fact he had one win until June 23. So, as a reminder of how things were going at this time five years ago, here’s a look back at some of the frustration of a June 11 game against the Brewers (who were Los Cerveceros that night) with a post I wrote on June 12. Also, at the end, there’s a brief note about a guy I completely forgot existed. Sorry, Andrew Brown.

Would the person with the Chris Carpenter voodoo doll please stop poking it?

(Especially if it’s Brendan Ryan.)

 Even a jersey with Cardenales on the front couldn’t keep CC from once again having one bad inning, which also again cost him and the team the game. Los Cerveceros won 5-3 on Cerveceros Day to honor the Hispanic community. CC’s record dropped to 1-6.

Things were going well through five innings. He gave up a home run to Prince Fielder in the second, but had only allowed one other hit and struck out four. The Cards had tied the game in the fourth, then took a 2-1 lead in the sixth thanks to a Lance Berkman homer off Zack Greinke. Then came the bottom of the sixth.

CC himself can tell the story:

“Tonight, I was as good as I’ve been, through five (innings). Then, three pitches and I give up four. It fell apart in that one inning and there’s no excuse for it.”

Those four runs came via a two-run homer by Rickie Weeks (Greinke had singled right before) and a two-run double by Corey Hart that scored Fielder and Casey McGehee, who’d received back-to-back walks.

CC had more to say about the game and his season overall: Continue reading

Five Years Ago Today: Nothing Better Than A Cubbie Sweep

NOTE: Five years ago was a much better time baseball-wise, wasn’t it? We weren’t subjected to daily gushings by the national sports media over THE CUBS!!!!! and so many of those friends and coworkers who now claim to be die-hard lifelong CUBS!!!!! fans were … well, just not paying attention to baseball, I guess. And Joe Maddon was the guy who managed the Rays. Oh, and the Cardinals were doing things like sweeping the CUBS!!!! — including two straight games, on June 4, 2011, and June 5, 2011, in Albert Pujols walk-off fashion. And Carlos Zambrano was getting mad about it. Plus Ryan Theriot — ahem, now Two-Time World Series Champion Ryan Theriot — was doing productive things as a Cardinal. Ah, those were the days … Enjoy this post from Miranda and relive the memories. To see the original post and its comments, click here

There is nothing better than a Cardinals win. But if there is anything better, it’s a Cardinals win over the Cubbies. The cherry on top is that Sunday’s Cardinals win over the Cubs meant that it was a SWEEP!

And how sweep it was!

The win Sunday came just as it did Saturday with a walk-off blast from Albert Pujols. Here is Sunday’s shot, if you haven’t seen it (or want to see it again).

It was Albert’s 13th homer of the season and his fourth in the past three days. The Mang enjoys playing the Cubbies, obviously! The blast Sunday was one of those in which you and he just knew it was gone once the ball left the bat and his grin and run in to the home plate area only to be mobbed by his teammates left you with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, the REAL Albert Pujols is back!

Another good thing about Sunday? Ryan Theriot hit an RBI-double in the bottom of the ninth, to tie the game up.

You know what this means right?

RYAN THERIOT HAS A 19-GAME HITTING STREAK!!!!! How awesome is that!? I say, so awesome!

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Five Years Ago Today: June 3, 2011

NOTE: As we all remember very well, 2011 was ultimately a special season for the Cardinals. And, since AMF began five years ago, we have the opportunity to take a look back at our coverage from that time. Today, a look back at some roster moves that happened on June 3, 2011 — with one now an obviously familiar name, while the other might make you say “who?”

Cardinals Make More Roster Moves

busThe Cardinals’ roster is looking a little different again today.

Matt Carpenter and Mark Hamilton were called up from Triple A Memphis, to take the spots of Maikel Cleto and Pete Kozma. Cleto was sent back to Double A Springfield, while Kozma returned to Memphis.

Here’s a look at Carpenter from Matthew Leach at Cardinals.com:

Carpenter was a Spring Training sensation and very nearly made the Major League roster out of camp. He got off to a slow start in the regular season, but is currently hitting .283 with a .421 OBP and a .387 SLG at Memphis. Carpenter was the Cardinals’ Minor League player of the year in 2010.

Hamilton was with the Cards for a while last month, as Leach writes:

He went 3-for-15 earlier in 2011. Over parts of three seasons at Triple-A, however, Hamilton has shown himself to be an offensive force. In 25 games at Memphis this year, he’s batting .391 with a .509 on-base percentage and a .552 slugging percentage. His career Triple-A line is .318/.409/.564 with 26 home runs in 143 games.

Kozma appeared in 10 games, mostly off the bench, while Cleto made his debut last night.

Both Carpenter and Hamilton will be available for tonight’s game.

 

Somebody Just Wrote the Book on The Cardinals Way — And it Wasn’t George Kissell

The best part of Howard Megdal’s new book, “The Cardinals Way: How One Team Embraced Tradition and Moneyball at the Same Time,” comes right in Chapter One. Megdal recounts reading a note from Baseball Prospectus in 2014 derisively pointing out that contrary to myth, the Cardinals did not invent player development, nor invent the idea of making sure there was a coherent philosophy running through their system.

cdc09793-ab7a-42d6-a5a0-e6cf2e3daef4Here’s the punchline: Actually, the Cardinals absolutely did invent the idea of developing players within a farm system with a manual to guide instructors and players from the lowest farm team to the major-league team on the Mississippi. Hall of Famer Branch Rickey in the 1920s decided to buy up whole teams rather than futilely fight with richer teams for young talent, and began the process to build from the ground up a way to teach those players The Cardinal Way of playing baseball.

It’s hard to draw a line from those days when scouting reports with fewer words than a Tweet were sent tap-tap-tap by telegraph, to this day of instant high-definition video shot on smartphones sent over wireless internet connections to front offices. If any team was capable of melding a respect for tradition with the advances of the early 21st century, Megdal says, it’s the Cardinals. Megdal has exhaustively built a case that contra Michael Lewis’ effort in Moneyball, the organizations best set up for sustained success in this game do just that. After all, the game is still played much the same way it was in Alexander Cartwright’s day; the biggest difference is that the amount of information and knowledge what to do with it to win.

Perhaps the best part of the book are the stories of legendary coach George Kissel, who spent nearly seven decades with the team, beginning with Branch Rickey and ending with John Mozeliak. Imagine! Kissell, using his bachelor’s and master’s degree education in history and physical education, literally wrote the book on fundamentals on playing the game (if you want, you can visit the Cardinals museum at Ballpark Village, where you’ll find his 1969 edition), but more importantly, was the personification of the Cardinals Way, teaching more about life as a professional ballplayer. Megdal follows the apocryphal advice, that if you want to know a general, speak to his troops. Kissell passed away in 2008, so Megdal spends time with not just the former players and coaches who felt Kissel’s influence to learn more about “the Professor.” Even in the final seasons of his life, Kissel would be on the field or in the stands, studying intently, talking with the newest draft choices. Why? Even after all those years, Kissell would say he’d learn something new every day — probably learning more from his students than they from him.

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