Friday nights in October seem to be made for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Looking back over the most memorable postseason games since 2011, some of the best were on Fridays. Game Five of the 2011 NLDS and the masterful performance by Chris Carpenter. Game Seven of the 2011 World Series (nothing more needs to be said about that, obviously!) The wacky and weird wild card game in 2012 against the Braves. Game Five of the 2012 NLDS with that incredible comeback against the Nationals.
Then there was last October and Game Six of the NLCS, Cardinals up in the series 3-2. One more win against the Dodgers, though it would have to be a win against Clayton Kershaw — would send the Cards to the World Series. Kershaw gave up 7 of the runs scored by the Cards in the 9-0 pennant-clinching victory. No doubt a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Clayton Kershaw would never have that kind of night in the postseason again …
Especially in 2014, after his not just Cy Young but possibly MVP-worthy season in which he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA.
Especially when Adam Wainwright unfortunately had a Game-Five-of-the-2012-NLDS-like night and allowed 6 runs to the Dodgers, leaving in the fifth inning with the Cards down 6-1.
Especially when Kershaw, after allowing the first-inning home run to Randal Grichuk then retired 16 straight Cardinals and struck out seven until Matt Carpenter homered to make it 6-2 in the top of the sixth.
Then came the seventh inning.
Matt Holliday singled. Jhonny Peralta singled. Yadier Molina singled to load the bases with obviously no outs. Matt Adams singled for a Matt Matted In that made the score 6-3. Pete Kozma did not have a 2012-like at-bat and struck out, but Jon Jay then singled to score Peralta to make it 6-4. Oscar Taveras pinch-hit for Marco Gonzalez with the bases still loaded and struck out on three pitches. Was Kershaw getting his groove back after all?
No, not with Carpenter up again. With the bases loaded. The same Matt Carpenter who’d just homered the inning before, and of course the same Matt Carpenter who had that epic 11-pitch at-bat in Game Six of the 2013 NLCS (and if you’ve never read this post by Joe Schwartz on that, you should).
It was another epic at-bat — this by Tim Brown at Yahoo is a must-read — which ended, as Brown describes it, like this:
Yeah, round about the sixth or seventh pitch, having survived that long, Carpenter said the at-bat from last October flashed through his mind. So many people leaning in, Mattingly sure in his decision to let this matchup happen, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny turning to bench coach Mike Aldrete, taking a break from calculating bullpen moves and saying, “What an at-bat,” and then Carpenter rifling a clean double into right-center field. Three runs scored. The Cardinals, once down five, led 7-6. Mattingly returned to the mound, this time for the ball. Kershaw waited, his head down, smoothing dirt with his cleat. The people let the towels fall to their sides, and their astonishment draw them back into their seats.
Carpenter stood at second base, one hell of an at-bat behind him.
Yet that wasn’t all for the inning.
After a walk to Grichuk by Pedro Baez, Matt Holliday — now up for the second time in the inning — swung at the first pitch Baez delivered and launched a bomb to left to make it 10-6 Cards. An 8-run seventh, the first time a visiting team scored 8 runs in a postseason inning since that memorable Game Six of the 2003 NLCS in Chicago, when the Marlins did so off the Cubs. (Yes, the Bartman game.)
It wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing after that for the Cards, however. Randy Choate allowed a homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the bottom of the eighth after he walked Yasiel Puig to make the score 10-8.
And Trevor Rosenthal was Make-Every-Outing-Just-A-Little-More-Interesting Trevor Rosenthal as he’s been for much of 2014, even while earning 45 saves. After a single by A.J. Ellis and a double by Andre Ethier, an RBI-groundout by Dee Gordon made it 10-9.
With none other than Puig coming up to bat.
Yasiel Puig, who was hit by Wainwright in the third inning that ticked off Adrian Gonzalez and, subsequently, Yadi, and who’d already had two hits on the night.
Trevor threw seven fastballs, with two 99 mph and five 100 mph — including the last, which Puig swung at and missed.
Whew … that’s a winner! Another come-from-behind-oh-my-God-can-you-believe-it-that’s-why-everyone-hates-the-Cardinals winner!
It’s October. FOX Sports told us years ago that you can’t script it, and that’s very true. On Friday nights in October, you never know just what the Cardinals will do.