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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.