Cards Hang Loose Headed To Houston

Jon Jay, Daniel Descalso and David Freese as the team was headed to Houston. (Photo: @danieldescalso)

On Aug. 26, the words “Cardinals” and “wild card” did not go together. Trailing the Braves by 10 1/2 games meant that wasn’t even something to consider.

Yet the lead began to shrink. It was 8 1/2 games on Sept. 5, then 4 1/2 on Sept. 12 following a sweep of the Braves. Now, of course, it’s down to 1 — with three chances to close the gap completely.

The September we’ll remember comes down to tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday in Houston. The September the Braves so far want to forget comes down to tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday at home against the Phillies.

If you’re worried the Cardinals might be tense or uptight about what’s ahead, take a look at the picture. Hawaiian shirts were the theme for this “happy flight.”

Yesterday’s win, just like Saturday’s, was another comeback. And the hero, Rafael Furcal, received welcome redemption after a rough couple days. His ninth inning error Thursday afternoon against the Mets started that game’s unraveling. And, as Derrick Goold writes, that had been on Furcal’s mind:

“For me, it made me wake up,” Furcal said. The error “was in my mind the last two or three days. It’s tough the way we are here now and one mistake, something like that, and you’re finished. I couldn’t sleep. … It’s something that I had in my mind, that I had to pick up my team because we’re fighting for a place in the playoffs. It is a good moment.”

That “good moment” was an eighth inning homer to put the Cards up 3-2. It followed a Yadier Molina home run an inning earlier to tie the game — Yadi’s 14th of the season. His 2-for-3 day pushed his batting average to .305. The Cardinals third RBI was courtesy of an Edwin Jackson game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth.Jackson’s pitching was just as impressive, as he went seven innings and allowed the two runs on five hits. More stellar relieving followed, as Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel and Jason Motte went the final two innings. They allowed no hits and had four strikeouts. Motte — who’s not the closer, just the guy who pitches the ninth and gets saves — earned his ninth.The side story to the victory, of course, was that yesterday was the Cardinals final regular season home game. That meant it possibly could have been Albert’s last time at Busch Stadium as a Cardinal. And the fans definitely let Albert know how they feel before his first at-bat, with a 40+ second standing ovation. (See it here.) It was an amazing moment. As Bernie Miklasz writes,

Pujols heard you. He felt you. He was genuinely touched by the sentiment. In the bottom of the first inning he stepped out of the batter’s box just to collect himself, and to absorb a moment that’s been building for the last 11 seasons.

“It was pretty emotional, obviously,” Pujols said. “You’ve got 45,000, almost 50,000 people standing up and they appreciate what you’ve done. I’m still wearing a Cardinal uniform, so until they take this jersey away from me I’m going to continue to do my best for the fans and for the city and for the organization.”

And now, that “best” moves to Houston through Wednesday.

Tonight Jaime Garcia faces off against Wandy Rodriguez, while in Atlanta it’s Cliff Lee against Randall Delgado. Game time for the Cardinals is 7:05 p.m., while the Phillies-Braves start at 6:10 p.m.

It’s dramatic and cliched, but it really does all come down to this.


Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

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