The way I see it, with the official elimination number at 11, the Cardinals have just two options.
- Play out the rest of the season to get it over with, knowing there were simply too many up-hill battles to overcome this season. On the way, play a few Baby Birds and start looking towards the potentially dramatic off season to come.
- Play out the rest of the season like it still matters, knowing there is pride and respect on the line. Plus, there are the numbers hunts — Albert’s statistics, namely. And those Baby Birds? There are handfuls of options to consider based on their skills. Oh, and the fans really want to see Cardinals winners, 9 1/2 games out or not.
Tonight, they seemed to like door #2 better.
Six innings in, Tony La Russa decided it was time to jump on the merry-go-round and play relay-style. Fernando Salas recorded the first two outs of the 7th (yes, the former officially-unofficial-closer-who-always-pitches-the-ninth-when-the-Cards-are-winning Salas). Then, TAG! Marc Rzepczynski is it! But only for one guy, of course. Wouldn’t want to overuse the lefty specialist who pitches just as well to righties. The eighth belonged to Kyle McClellan who gave up a run on two hits, as did Jason-the-new-non-closer-Motte on three hits — his first earned run since June.
Head spinning yet? It’s just a little classic TLR for you as the end of the season wears on.
This time, it worked — coupled with some offensive bursts and, believe it or not, some 9th-inning defense.
The scoring came early on a Lance Berkman single in the first, then homers by Jon Jay and Matt Holliday in the third. But Jay wasn’t ready to quit there. He added an RBI single in the 7th that scored Tyler Greene (*gasp* Tyler Greene did something good in St. Louis? Welcome back to the show, kid!)
The other callups thus far had moments, too. Adron Chambers came in as a pinch runner for Berkman. While that was about the extent of it, he did say before the game that it was a dream come true to have his name on the back of a big league jersey. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see what this kid can do at this level.
Tony Cruz welcomed himself back to Busch by doing a little damage of his own … in batting practice. Word is, he knocked out the “I” in Big Mac land with an impressive shot to left field before the game. TC is an exciting player, if not for his skill, for the sheer energy and determination he shows. This kid wants to play, whatever it takes. And I love it!
So while the gain on the Brewers seems mostly insignificant, the gain on the Braves (thanks, Philadelphia!) puts the Redbirds 7.5 back with Atlanta on their way to St. Louis this weekend.
Seven and a half games is still daunting. But so are the prospects this off season holds. So, as long as the Cards continue to choose option #2 for the 20 games that remain, I’ll continue to cheer on both the vets and the youngins in their quest — wherever it may lead!