Cardinals Take Happy Flight To Philly

Thanks to our pal Dennis (@gr33nazn) for the photo

There have been a lot of good luck charms for the Cardinals the past few weeks. But before the Rally Squirrel and the phenomenon of Torty Craig, there was the Happy Flight.

Thanks to David Freese, the Cardinals are taking yet another one — this time back to Philadelphia for game five of the NLDS.

Happy flights have actually been the Cards norm for two months now, as Matthew Leach calculated:

The Cards made it a remarkable 13th straight getaway-day win, and thus a 13th straight chance to yell “Happy flight.” They last time they boarded a plane having lost a game was way back on Aug. 3, following an ugly defeat to the Brewers. Since then, every time they have flown, they’ve been able to chant that clubhouse mantra with gusto.

We’ve heard the chant — from the Cards clubhouse in Philadelphia on Sept. 19 after Omar Infante’s walk-off homer gave the Marlins a win over the Braves and, of course, from the clubhouse in Houston following the wild card clinching.

The Freeser had a huge game Wednesday, driving in four of the Cards five runs for the 5-3 victory. The first two were on a go-ahead double in the fourth, the other two on a homer to straightaway center in the sixth to give the Cards some breathing room.

Yet the win had to be another comeback for the Cardinals. Edwin Jackson had a rough first inning, allowing the Phillies to take a 2-0 lead after throwing just five pitches. However, as our friend Bob Netherton so presciently reminded us on Twitter, “Just remember, Jackson generally has trouble in the first inning. He will find his groove and all will be well.”

Yep, as always, Bob was right. Jackson settled in. After allowing those two runs and three hits in the first, he only allowed two more hits over the next five innings.

And, with the exception of Fernando Salas, the bullpen once again was stellar as nearly everyone got into the game over the final three innings. Arthur Rhodes retired the one batter he faced, Octavio Dotel and his high socks got the next two. Marc Rzepczynski replaced Salas and entered the game in a tense situation in the eighth — the Phillies had just scored their third run, Utley was on second and Ryan Howard was the tying run coming up to bat. Rzep struck him out, the third K of the night for Howard.

That left the ninth inning for Not Closer Jason Motte. He worried us a bit, going to a 3-0 count on Shane Victorino, but got him to ground out before striking out Raul Ibanez. Then came a liner to right-center that Jon Jay snared on a nice sliding catch to end the game. That was a winner!

Both Cards NLDS wins have been saved by the Not Closer, by the way …

After his big night at the plate Tuesday, Albert went 0 for 4 on Wednesday. However, he made a big (and possibly game-saving) impact on the game with an incredible defensive play in the sixth. Jackson walked Chase Utley to start the inning. Hunter Pence grounded it to short, with Rafael Furcal fielding it and throwing to first. Only Albert was off the bag — because he noticed Utley had rounded second and was heading to third. So instead of the sure out, he fired over to Freese at third. Utley, diving into the bag, was out. You have to see it.

Last night also featured the return of the Rally Squirrel — and this time, his appearance boosted the Cards. It was the fifth inning and Skip Schumaker was at the plate when he dashed in front of the plate and royally ticked off Roy Oswalt before running into the stands. (OK, how freaky would it have been to have a squirrel run down your row?) You have to see this too — especially Oswalt’s protesting to the umpire, but also Mike Shannon’s chuckling over it as well.

And, after all the animal encounters this season, leave it to Matt Holliday — who of course had his own memorable insect moment — to have the line of the night on Rally Squirrel:

“I’m the animal whisperer,” Holliday said. “I think that squirrel was there to see me.”

So now it’s on to game five. And Tony La Russa’s gamble of starting Chris Carpenter on short rest Sunday so that he would be available on regular rest for a deciding game has paid off. Huge game, to say the least, and an incredible pitching match-up with CC going against his friend Roy Halladay — and with the potential for another Cardinals happy flight back to St. Louis.

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

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