Anyone who has paid attention to the Cardinals for weeks on end during just about any month this season saw just potent the defending champions’ lineup could be. But, in that same amount of time, they likely saw how bone-dry things could become, in the blink of an eye. In fact, many people believed the striking inability to come up with that one big, “clutch” hit with runners in scoring position could spell disaster for the Redbirds in the postseason.
For the Cardinals to make serious waves in the playoffs, they were going to have to do better than scoring two runs (without a hit) and going 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, like they did on Sunday.
A tough task against one of the top rotations in baseball, no?And then, it happened. What we’ve seen plenty of times — the powerful Redbird lineup got an assist from a few key role players and BOOM. Runs. In bunches. Over, and over, and over.
After Wednesday’s 8-0 win against Edwin Jackson and company, the Cardinals have now tallied 20 runs in the last two days. That’s 20 runs on 27 hits. Yes, that is nine times the hit total in game one.
Anchored by commanding starting pitching (despite Jaime Garcia’s injury-shortened outing) and young bullpen arms with everything to prove, those runs were more than enough — for the wins, and, potentially, for a little extra confidence.
If 2011 taught us anything, it wasn’t that magic comes in a bottle and is poured out as needed. It wasn’t even that the Cardinals will always pull off some kind of late-season heroics. Quite simply, last year’s roller coaster taught us that in the playoffs, everything thing changes. And the Cardinals learned, perhaps better than anyone else, that the glory goes to those that seize the moment.
I mean, really … Pete Kozma, postseason hero? Or how about David Freese trying to repeat an MVP-caliber performance? Then there’s Chris Carpenter and Carlos Beltran. Postseason veterans, warriors, really, showing the “kids” how it’s done.
When the Mujica/Boggs duo falters, the Lynn/Rosenthal/Kelly trio shines. And, credit where it’s due, how about Mike Matheny learning on the spot how to best manage his pitching staff through critical, dare I say “must-win” games in his first playoffs as the boss man?
Of course, it helps when Jon Jay scales walls to make big plays. And Matt Holliday chips away, making little things turn into big things … like today, with an often elusive “productive out” that turned into runs.
I mean, just look at the Cardinal box score from today:
Jon Jay — 2-for-4 with two runs scored
Carlos Beltran — 2-for-4 with a run scored
Matt Holliday — 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored
Allen Craig — 1-for-3 with an RBI and two walks
Yadier Molina — 0-for-3 with an RBI walk and a run scored
David Freese — 2-for-5 with a run scored
Daniel Descalso — 1-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored
Pete Kozma — 1-for-5 with a 3-run homer
Chris Carpenter — 2-for-3
When this team is getting production like that, one through nine, good luck stopping them.
The question is, can it continue? Will this team keep doing what many said could never be done? Is that simply the talking point that keeps these guys inspired?
Many will cite Washington’s inexperience in postseason play as one reason for their apparent meltdown. But me? I say any team facing the Cardinals when they’re firing on all cylinders is in a heap of trouble.
After yesterday’s performance, though, the pressure falls to the Redbirds. I know, the Nats are the ones fighting for their lives today. But, it’s the Cards who have shown their real potential. And now it’s up to them to seize the moment.
It’s Kyle Lohse against Ross Detwiler in a potential Division Series clincher. Those aren’t bad odds, but we all know games aren’t won or lost on paper.
Hopefully the old saying, “hitting is contagious” is right, and this high-octane hit train keeps on rolling!
Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.