Cardinals Good, Better And Best Of NLDS Game Five

One strike away.

Five times.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still having a hard time believing what I saw — even though it was more than 12 hours ago and I rewatched much of Game Five again this morning. And will happily rewatch it again and again, just like I’ve watched last year’s NLDS Game Five and World Series Game Six.

Obviously the comparisons to Game Six are apt — except these Cardinals came back from a bigger deficit, being down 6-0 in the third inning and, of course, being down to their last strike five times in the ninth.

Indeed, just like 2011, they just won’t go away …

Here’s a closer look at how that 6-0 Nationals lead turned into a now-we-have-another-game-we’ll-never-forget 9-7 win — with the good, better and best.

Good

It sounds so obvious now, but not giving up when they were down 3-0 before there was even one out and down 6-0 two innings later. Here’s what Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports had to say:

Had the Nationals not been so busy celebrating their three-run third inning, the one with the home runs by Bryce Harper and Michael Morse, they might have noticed something about the club they were on the way to vanquishing. The Cardinals players ran off the field at inning’s end. They jumped in their dugout and they clapped. Shortstop Pete Kozma remembers several players shouting: “Let’s go from here.” They were down 6-0. Their top starter had been knocked out. They would not die.

The comeback started slowly, and there were — as always — plenty of missed opportunities along the way. Such as in the fifth, when the Cards had the bases loaded and no out and scored on a wild pitch and a walk. But, still, two runs were two runs and made the score 6-3 then. That was good.

So was Davey Johnson’s decision to use Edwin Jackson in relief in the seventh. E-Jax wasn’t quite as generous to his former teammates as he’s been recently, but he still allowed a walk to Jon Jay, a double to Carlos Beltran and and RBI-ground out to Matt Holliday that made it 6-4.

Better

How awesome are Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal?

Kelly came into the game in the bottom of the third, after Adam Wainwright allowed a two-run homer to Michael Morse that put the Nationals up 6-0. And all he did was strike out Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa to end the third, then retire Kurt Suzuki, Gio Gonalez and Jayson Werth in order next inning.

Then Rosenthal pitched the fifth. I’ve reminded everyone of this before, and will keep saying it throughout this postseason, but last September Trevor Rosenthal was pitching for the Quad Cities River Bandits in the Midwest League Championship Series. I was at the championship-clinching game, and the crowd of 2,000 or so was obviously no comparison to the largest-ever crowd at Nationals Park of 45,000-plus in Game Five of the National League Division Series. Yet he was unfazed and consistently reached 100 mph while striking out Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman and getting Adam LaRoche to fly out.

Also in the better category: Daniel Descalso’s lead-off home run in the eighth that made it 6-5.

Best

Of course, the ninth inning.

Beltran led off with a double off Drew Storen, which was his third hit of the game to go with two walks. He advanced to third base on Matt Holliday’s ground-out. Allen Craig then struck out for the second out.

Yet the Cardinals obviously didn’t panic. Instead, Yadier Molina and David Freese showed patience at the plate — even as each was down to his last strike, several times each — and walked. Adron Chambers pinch-ran for Yadi.

That brought Dirty Dan up with the bases loaded, the perfect time for his second heroic moment of the game.

Next was that BAMF Pete Kozma, he of the three-run homer in Game Three and an amazing September. And he cemented his 2012 legend status when he did this.

As Bob Brenly said in that clip, he and Dick Stockton did say in the opener that perhaps Pete would be this year’s unlikely hero.

I love when that happens, as does every single Cardinals fan out there.

The Nationals finally retired the side … because Jason Motte was the next batter and he struck out. Which was fine — he had more important things to do, like get back out to the pitchers mound. He retired Werth, Harper and Zimmerman in order to end the game and send the Cards into a celebration as, for the second straight year, they knocked the team with the National League’s best record out of the postseason and moved forward.

And while they had their fun for a bit after the game, they also knew there was still a job to be done, as Les Carpenter of Yahoo explained:

And in that room, dripping with champagne, a Cardinals player suddenly shouted out. The party was over. It was time to stop celebrating and think about the San Francisco Giants. Enough with screaming and the popping of corks and swilling of beer. Slowly, the players obliged. They put down their beers, they turned to the plastic draped over their lockers and they pulled it down themselves.

Time to go back to work for the team that knows the postseason all too well.

The NLCS starts tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in San Francisco against the Giants, as the ride toward the possibility of Championship 12 in ’12 keeps moving forward.


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

2 thoughts on “Cardinals Good, Better And Best Of NLDS Game Five

  1. Davey Johnson will spend all winter wondering why he didn’t walk Kozma to face Motte, or to force Matheny to remove Motte for Tony Cruz.

    Lasorda probably still wonders why he didn’t walk Clark to have Niedenfuer pitch to that “blankety-blank Van Slyke.”

  2. Davey Johnson will spend all winter wondering why he didn’t walk Kozma to face Motte, or to force Matheny to remove Motte for Tony Cruz.

    Lasorda probably still wonders why he didn’t walk Clark to have Niedenfuer pitch to that “blankety-blank Van Slyke.”

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