With the memories of the Cardinals miraculous run to the 2011 World Series championship five years behind us, the biggest moments are what stand out the most. And five years ago tonight was a defining one: Game Five of the division series against the Phillies, Chris Carpenter vs. Roy Halladay.
The smaller moments leading up to the win-or-go-home showdown between the best buds are worth remembering, though — like the Rally Squirrel’s emergence in the Cards’ Game 4 victory at Busch Stadium (and “Happy Flights”) and the prevalence of all those entertaining Twitter accounts from the Squirrel, Torty Craig and more. (Oh, Allen Craig, we miss you …)
The Friday night battle to determine who would move on and face the Brewers (oh yeah, they were in the playoffs that year too) lived up to the hype — which, as we know, doesn’t always happen in baseball. The lone run was scored, as we remember, when Rafael Furcal lead off the top of the first with a triple followed by Skip Schumaker doubling to drive him in. From there it was just masterful pitching from both Halladay and Carpenter. Relive the highlights from Chris Carpenter via video here, and read on for thoughts — and those memorable photos — from the time.
Carpenter Carries Cards To NLCS
In six weeks of magical moments and inspiring wins, we now have one to head the list.
For now, anyway, although it will be a challenge for any victory to top this.
Last night was all the cliches — must win to continue, everything on the line — and the result could sound like a cliche too: Chris Carpenter pitched the game of his life.
A complete game three-hit shutout, 110 pitches with no room for error because the Cardinals clung to a 1-0 lead — a lead that came on the second play of the game when Skip Schumaker doubled home Rafael Furcal after a lead-off triple.
Carpenter got the job done.
Not that it wasn’t intense.
I watched the game with the sound muted from the second inning on — the combination of nerves and the Philadelphia crowd and blathering from Dick Stockton, Ron Darling and especially John Smoltz was too much. And instead of spending time on Twitter sharing the experience like I usually would, I mostly just sat and watched. Or stood and watched. Or paced and watched.
And what we all saw was masterful. Five of the nine innings, Carp retired the side in order — including in the ninth. The fourth was perhaps the Phillies biggest threat to score, when Hunter Pence was at third and Shane Victorino at first and Raul Ibanez up. He hit a fly ball very deep to right that caused every Cardinal fan to stop breathing … then Lance Berkman reached up and made an easy catch to end the inning.
The defense definitely was a huge plus in the game. Yadi caught Chase Utley trying to steal in the sixth. Rafael Furcal made both an unbelievable stop and amazing throw to get Carlos Ruiz in the eighth. In the bottom of the ninth, Jon Jay had a nice grab of a fly deep to center by Utley.
But Carp was the man of the night, stepping up again — just like he did in game 162 on Sept. 28 — when he was needed the most. And the team knew this. Once the game was over, when it was time to celebrate moving on, the rest of the team waited until CC arrived in the clubhouse to pop the champagne.
So this thrilling ride rolls along with yet another happy flight, and one back to another showdown with the Brewers — this time in the National League Championship Series with the winner headed to the World Series. Not that I want to think about the Brewers quite yet. It’s still time to savor what we witnessed last night.
And if you have MLB Network, you can watch it all over this afternoon at 2 p.m. Central Time. I can’t wait to see it again and appreciate it all the more this time.
Oh, and speaking of appreciation, a message for Nick Punto. On behalf of female Cardinals fans everywhere, Shredder, let me just say thank you and nice work. Very nice work, indeed.