Here the St. Louis Cardinals are again — in a true must-win game.
Why does this sound familiar?
Oh, that’s right. They were in this exact same situation one week ago with the wild-card playoff game.
Obviously, they succeeded.
And, while this is 2012 and not 2011, last year’s team was in this exact situation five times, four in the post-season.
Sept. 28, 2011 — Game 162.
Oct. 5, 2011 — NLDS Game Four.
Oct. 7, 2011 — NLDS Game Five.
Oct. 27, 2011 — World Series Game Six.
Oct. 28, 2011 — World Series Game Seven.
Five games. Five wins.
What does that mean for tonight?
Nothing, except that the team — both everyone in the dugout tonight plus those who were Cardinals in 2011 — have experience when it comes to handling “win or go home.” Especially since they all just went through this last Friday.
But experience doesn’t make the right pitches, necessarily. Experience doesn’t get the timely hits. It doesn’t make the plays defensively.
However, experience does let you know there’s no need to panic — games are nine innings (or more, if needed) and 27 outs. And we saw how this team handled adversity last Friday night in Atlanta — a variety of adversity, for sure.
This division series against the Washington Nationals so far has had it all for the 2012 Cardinals — the best of what we love about this team in Games Two and Three with the pitching and the hitting and the scoring runs, the absolute frustration of missed opportunities in Game One, the lack of hitting but great pitching in Game Four (with plenty of angst over another familiar MLB 2012 theme: poor umpiring).
Now this series, and season, comes down to Adam Wainwright taking the mound tonight at Nationals Park. Of course he’s eager for the chance after spending last season in the dugout.
“This is every pitcher’s dream,” Wainwright said after Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4. “It’s every competitor’s dream to go into huge moments like this. So I look forward to the challenge … This team has battled through so much this year and fought so hard just to get into the postseason. It really can’t be understated how special that is to our team, and me in particular. I feel very blessed that I get to go out and compete tomorrow.”
Then there’s manager Mike Matheny, who — like the division series itself — has alternately pleased and frustrated fans throughout these past four games with his decisions.
“What I would like to say about our team is that we’ve shown a lot of heart this year. I’d say, also, they don’t quit, and it’s hard to beat a team that doesn’t quit. Those are things that they have done. Now, what does it take to be successful? I don’t have the most experience as a manager in the postseason. So I can’t tell you. But what I’ve seen so far is a very consistent group of guys who go about their business the same way every day, regardless if it’s October or whether it’s April. To me, that is fun to be around, and it gives yourself a chance to compete every night regardless of what the situation is.”
Yep, the chance to compete is certainly there. And it really does all come down to this … again.
Hopefully the rest of the Cardinals are sharing the same view as Allen Craig:
“Somebody’s going to win it. That team is going to be the one that attacks the game and has fun with it.”
So, Cardinals, go out there tonight and have fun. Relax and enjoy.
We as fans will try to do the same.
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.