Playoff Bound: Dodgers Out, Cardinals In

Dear San Francisco Giants,

Thank you for the assistance. We greatly appreciate your part in making today’s game far less stressful. 

Sincerely,

A much more relaxed Cardinal Nation

P.S. — #BeatLA, just because. 

—–

Okay, so the 2012 playoff push didn’t end with the fireworks 2011 created. But, all the Cardinals had to do was win one, or get some help.

The help came first, after the Cardinals were unable to top Mat Latos and the Cincinnati Reds last night.

Chris Carpenter wasn’t flawless, but who really expects him to be after, you know, having a rib removed a few months ago?! He did plenty, though, striking out seven over six innings, surrendering three earned runs.

The Cardinal offense struck first, scoring a first-inning run. But, that was all they could muster, going 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on the night.

Trevor Rosenthal pitched the seventh in place of Carpenter, and let me just say, if ever there was justification of jumping a guy over AAA ball all together, he’s it. The 100 MPH fastball that struck out Joey Votto was just plain nasty. See for yourself.

But at the end of the night, it was all about what was happening in Los Angeles. It wasn’t easy, but the Giants held off the Dodgers, and the Cardinals were playoff bound again.

Just a few weeks ago, this seemed improbable, at best. Just a few months ago, it was all but deemed impossible, by the experts, that is. Everyone knew the narrative: No Tony La Russa, no Dave Duncan, and no Albert Pujols. New manager. Injuries up the wazoo, inexplicable slumps, inconsistent strengths. All the doom and gloom.

And yet, it’s the Redbirds who are playoff bound.

Well done, boys. Well done.

Now, the defending champions prepare for another tough-if-not-impossible task: taking down Kris Medlen and the resurgent Braves. If the 0.97 ERA in the last 12 starts isn’t enough of a threat, how about the fact that Atlanta has won the last 23 games Medlen started (all the way back to the 2010 season, since he spent time as a reliever)?

So it begins.

“The Cardinals can’t beat him.”

“The Redbirds are just lucky to be in the Wild Card playoff game.”

Blah, blah, blah.

Anyone else remember this Roy Halladay guy? The Cards weren’t supposed to get passed him either. But they did.

There’s a super-sized dose of resignation this morning among some Cardinal fans. But you better believe that’s not the case in the Cardinal clubhouse. Or for me.

It’s not 2011 anymore. That magic is long gone. But who’s to say the Comeback Cards can’t find a little bit more? Starting on Friday night against the Braves.

This is where I point out how much I hate a one-game playoff. It’s just not how baseball works. In a “real” series, the playoff picture wouldn’t come down to one ace shutting down a team’s chances. It wouldn’t be a story of one team just having a bad day. It’s silly.

But, I digress.

It is what it is. And it is a one-game playoff (play-in?) between the Cardinals and the Braves. Yes, the team who knocked the Braves out of the playoffs last season, en route to a magical World Series run, has to get through them yet again. Naturally.

I suppose this is the part where I must acknowledge my dislike of the new Wild Card set up as a whole. Yes, I complained about adding a second Wild Card team. And yet, today I’m celebrating my team’s admittance to the playoffs. So I guess I’m not so upset after all! Right or wrong, my team is still playing baseball, at least for one more day. I can’t be too mad about that!

As is noted at the end of the recap video on the Cardinals website today,

“The Cardinals know it doesn’t matter how you get to the postseason, just that you get there.”

Tonight’s game doesn’t matter much, except that Shelby Miller will be making his first Major League start in order to have Wainwright set up for the playoff rotation. Cardinal fans have waited a long time for this … and so has Miller.

It would be great to get him a win tonight and head to Atlanta with a little momentum. But win or no win tonight, it’s playoff time. That, in and of itself, makes the trip to Atlanta a “happy flight!”

Let the roller coaster begin!

Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.


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