Five Years Ago Tonight: That’s An NL Pennant Winner!

You might be looking for some positive baseball news these days, so how about a trip back to the evening of Sunday, Oct. 16, 2011? That’s when the St. Louis Cardinals won their 18th National League pennant by beating the Milwaukee Brewers in those games that filled the time between the classic National League Division Series and even more classic World Series.

I honestly don’t remember much about the 2011 NLCS, other than the October Legend of David Freese had its first chapters, as he was named series MVP, and all of the relievers got a lot of use, and also deserved to be named series MVP. And maybe that’s fine. Scrolling back through the posts from the series and seeing names like Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and Nyjer Morgan — ugh. So much better to remember the Rally Squirrel instead. And, of course, a pennant-clinching win.

Especially because we remember what happened in the days to follow.

Believe It! Cardinals Are In The World Series!

Photo: StLToday.com

Photo: StLToday.com

We’re always told to never give up, always keep trying, you never know how things will work out.

If you ever question whether that’s true or not, you now have the perfect example of what not giving up can get you.

The National League pennant.

It bears repeating again and again — the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals are National League champions! Next happy flight: home to host the Texas Rangers in game one of the World Series on Wednesday!

It’s the Cardinals’ 18th NL pennant, and their third trip to the World Series since 2004. They’ll be going for their 11th World Series title — #11in11 as those of us on Twitter have seen so often — and will take on a Rangers team that’s making their second (and second consecutive) trip to the Series.

And while it’s been quite a ride since Aug. 25, last night was perhaps the wildest of them all.

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Five Years Ago Tonight: The Game of Chris Carpenter’s Career

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

Cardinals' Carpenter celebrates winning their MLB baseball playoff game against the Phillies in Philadelphia

Click photo for larger version

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. Continue reading

Five Years Ago Tonight: Clinching The Wild Card

Ah, Game 162! That epic final night of the 2011 regular season, when the triumphant comeback of the Cardinals and monumental collapse of the Braves was complete, yet was just one part of a fantastic evening. (Though obviously the part we as Cards fans cared about the most.)

Experience again MLB’s highs and lows from the evening here (it’s worth the 12 minutes, especially to see bits of Chris Carpenter’s performance — plus isn’t it always nice to see the Red Sox complete their collapse? And the Braves as well?). Then continue on below to read what was published here five years ago about Game 162, which made the “September to remember” complete. That final sentence is rather prescient in retrospect, if I do say so myself. (OK, only because we know the final fairy-tale ending. Still …)

That’s A Historic Comeback Winner!

The comeback climb is finished, and in the best way possible — the Cardinals are the Wild Card Champions!

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

Carp, Albert and an epic hug

The details are so familiar now: on the morning of Aug. 25, the Cards were 10 1/2 games behind the Braves. They’d just been swept by the Dodgers — Aaron Miles’ revenge — and were 67-63.

The the winning began, with that 8-4 Social Media Night victory over the Pirates. The winning continued. And now, history.

Making the playoffs after trailing by 10 1/2 after 130 games is, according to Fox Sports Midwest, the biggest comeback in history. No. 2 on the list? The 2011 Tampa Bay Rays, who are the AL Wild Cards Champs following their own stunning win in Game 162. At one point they’d been 9 games back. Third on the list? The 1964 Cardinals, who trailed by 8 1/2 games before propelling themselves to the National League pennant.

The Cardinals’ win was achieved without any of the tension or drama of Tuesday night. They took command from the very beginning, with five straight hits to open the game. Albert drove in the first run for RBI No.99, and the scoring continued until Nick Punto drove in run No. 5. Chris Carpenter came to bat before even taking the pitchers mound — always a good sign.

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Show Us a Tragedy, and We’ll Write You About Our Hero

There was a boy in the stands, tousled jet-black hair, wide-open dark eyes, mouth open, scarcely believing he’s watching his hero pitching against the Washington Nationals one week ago today.

694940094001_5140533466001_mlb-star-jose-fernandez-2-others-killed-in-boat-cOne kid, watching another kid tease back and forth with the umpires, one kid watching the other kid’s big smile visible from the farthest reaches of Marlins Park, competing with that garish contraption beyond the outfield fence for electric wattage.

The boy with his oversized jersey with his hero’s name across the back, the large 16 under it, cap that barely fits.

Oh, how we envy that boy, look at him, all energy, squirming, hopping around in his seat, slapping the little glove he brought in case a foul ball comes his way, he’s ready. The boy, he’s pointing and shouting at his dad with every strikeout from his hero. That boy, he’s going to grow up watching one of the finest pitchers to take the mound in the history of the sport. He’s going to be able to tell his grand kids about the tall, strong Cuban who played this hard game with such infectious passion.

Did you see what that boy saw? Twelve strikeouts in eight innings against a team a handful of days away from claiming a division title. That’s right, 12. His hero sliced through the Nationals lineup, and had FUN doing it. Did you see his hero in the top of the eighth, in a 1-0 game, with runners at first and third with two outs? Did you see his hero’s mom, on her feet, as the TV camera zoomed in, fanning herself in the excitement. That’s her nino, her hero who saved her in that oft-told story that’s reached the point of fable of the 15-year-old boy who saved her from hostile waters, saved her as they escaped for a better life in a country of dreams.

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Five Years Ago Today: The Walk-Off Wild Pitch

Ah, September 2011 … how we miss you. And 2011 Cubs, how we miss you as well.

Before this afternoon’s Cardinals-Cubs contest gets underway, let’s take a trip back to a happier time. Sure, it tense and crazy as the Cards were battling for a wild-card spot five years ago — but it was so different than today, in so many ways. (Better in some ways too … like the standings.)

The come-from-behind walk-off-wild-pitch win is one of those memorable moments from the magical September run of the 2011 Cardinals. And, five years later, Carlos Marmol remains the Cardinals star of that game.

Here’s the AMF post from five years ago. (Check out the link at the very end too.)

Whatever It Takes To Win

star of gameThe bottom of the ninth inning in today’s game was every baseball cliche imaginable. It literally was a must-win, do-or-die game to keep alive the Cardinals hopes of catching the Braves in the wild card race. They honestly were down to their last strike — not once, not twice, but three times.

And they did it. They won, 2-1 … in the most unconventional way imaginable.

The game until that point was a frustration. The Cubs had scored their run in the first inning on three singles, half of the hits that Kyle Lohse allowed during his seven innings of work. He struck out eight, walked none and, at one point, retired 10 Cubs in a row. Meanwhile, the Cardinals only had four hits off Rodrigo Lopez through his six innings and had been retired in order by Andrew Cashner and Sean Marshall.

The Cardinals bullpen settled down from its challenges the past two games — Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte retired all six batters they faced in the eighth and ninth. Continue reading

Five Years Ago Today: Albert’s Fractured Forearm

NOTE: While the Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals five years ago yesterday, it’s doubtful most of us remember that outcome. Instead, what we remember is this collision between Albert Pujols and Wilson Betemit that forced Albert from the game and onto the disabled list. Five years ago today, we learned the injury was a non-displaced fracture of the left radius and he was supposed to miss four to six weeks — and we soon learned timelines like that meant nothing to Albert, since he was back when his initial 15 days on the DL were up. Still, it was kind of a big deal at the time — as the post below will indicate. You also can read about some names you probably wanted to forget, like Brian Tallett and Miguel Batista. And, as a result of Batista being in the game, there also was a poem. Ah, Poems For The Poet — those were the days … 

Painful Win For Cardinals

Skip Schumaker delivered an improbable walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading the Cardinals to their second consecutive 5-4 win over the Royals. The victory moved the Cards back into a tie for first place in the NL Central.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday's finale against the Royals.

Albert Pujols reacts after injuring his wrist in Sunday’s finale against the Royals.

The bigger story, however, is Albert Pujols and what happened in the top of the sixth. The details, from Austin Laymance of Cardinals.com:

The inning after his homer gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead, Pujols collided with Wilson Betemit on a play at first base after Betemit hit a slow roller up the middle. Pete Kozma fielded the ball and made a hurried throw that tailed away from first base towards the infield grass. When Pujols lurched for the ball, he made contact with a charging Betemit.

“He hit me in the wrist and shoulder and kind of jammed it back,” Pujols said. “As a first baseman it’s one of the toughest plays to make, it’s almost a bang-bang play and you can’t let the ball go. You risk it and, hopefully, don’t get hurt.”

But Pujols got hurt, and as the slugger went to the ground in obvious pain, an eerie hush fell over the crowd.

The initial report is that Albert has a sprained wrist, and he will be having further tests today. Given the Cardinals history with injury diagnosis — Allen Craig’s broken kneecap not being revealed via x-ray until a week after it happened being just the latest example — perhaps we have reason to worry. Or perhaps not, according to Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch: Continue reading

Remembering Darryl Kile

Fourteen years ago tonight was Darryl Kile’s last game, which we obviously did not know at the time. Two years ago, I published this post. It is the most-read post ever at AMF, which touches me, and received a multitude of comments — including one from Flynn Kile Jensen — and I wanted to share it again (particularly since it’s already received quite a few views today).

darrylkile

Five Years Ago Today: Chris Carpenter’s Bad Luck Continues

NOTE: When we think of Chris Carpenter’s 2011 season, we mostly remember the latter part of the year and especially October and tend to overlook the early part of the season — like the ERA that was in the 4’s throughout May and June and the fact he had one win until June 23. So, as a reminder of how things were going at this time five years ago, here’s a look back at some of the frustration of a June 11 game against the Brewers (who were Los Cerveceros that night) with a post I wrote on June 12. Also, at the end, there’s a brief note about a guy I completely forgot existed. Sorry, Andrew Brown.

Would the person with the Chris Carpenter voodoo doll please stop poking it?

(Especially if it’s Brendan Ryan.)

 Even a jersey with Cardenales on the front couldn’t keep CC from once again having one bad inning, which also again cost him and the team the game. Los Cerveceros won 5-3 on Cerveceros Day to honor the Hispanic community. CC’s record dropped to 1-6.

Things were going well through five innings. He gave up a home run to Prince Fielder in the second, but had only allowed one other hit and struck out four. The Cards had tied the game in the fourth, then took a 2-1 lead in the sixth thanks to a Lance Berkman homer off Zack Greinke. Then came the bottom of the sixth.

CC himself can tell the story:

“Tonight, I was as good as I’ve been, through five (innings). Then, three pitches and I give up four. It fell apart in that one inning and there’s no excuse for it.”

Those four runs came via a two-run homer by Rickie Weeks (Greinke had singled right before) and a two-run double by Corey Hart that scored Fielder and Casey McGehee, who’d received back-to-back walks.

CC had more to say about the game and his season overall: Continue reading

Five Years Ago Today: Nothing Better Than A Cubbie Sweep

NOTE: Five years ago was a much better time baseball-wise, wasn’t it? We weren’t subjected to daily gushings by the national sports media over THE CUBS!!!!! and so many of those friends and coworkers who now claim to be die-hard lifelong CUBS!!!!! fans were … well, just not paying attention to baseball, I guess. And Joe Maddon was the guy who managed the Rays. Oh, and the Cardinals were doing things like sweeping the CUBS!!!! — including two straight games, on June 4, 2011, and June 5, 2011, in Albert Pujols walk-off fashion. And Carlos Zambrano was getting mad about it. Plus Ryan Theriot — ahem, now Two-Time World Series Champion Ryan Theriot — was doing productive things as a Cardinal. Ah, those were the days … Enjoy this post from Miranda and relive the memories. To see the original post and its comments, click here

There is nothing better than a Cardinals win. But if there is anything better, it’s a Cardinals win over the Cubbies. The cherry on top is that Sunday’s Cardinals win over the Cubs meant that it was a SWEEP!

And how sweep it was!

The win Sunday came just as it did Saturday with a walk-off blast from Albert Pujols. Here is Sunday’s shot, if you haven’t seen it (or want to see it again).

It was Albert’s 13th homer of the season and his fourth in the past three days. The Mang enjoys playing the Cubbies, obviously! The blast Sunday was one of those in which you and he just knew it was gone once the ball left the bat and his grin and run in to the home plate area only to be mobbed by his teammates left you with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, the REAL Albert Pujols is back!

Another good thing about Sunday? Ryan Theriot hit an RBI-double in the bottom of the ninth, to tie the game up.

You know what this means right?

RYAN THERIOT HAS A 19-GAME HITTING STREAK!!!!! How awesome is that!? I say, so awesome!

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