Not Much Positive In Game Four Loss

For the first four innings, Game Four of the World Series was good from the St. Louis Cardinals perspective.

Sad smileyThen it wasn’t.

And, since we all know there are nine innings in a game, we’re now looking at a 2-2 Series tie after the Cardinals lost to the Boston Red Sox 4-2.

Through the first four innings, Lance Lynn was terrific — facing only the minimum number of Red Sox after the one base runner he did allow (David Ortiz, of course, on a second inning single) was erased on a double play.

Plus the Cardinals scored a run in the third when Matt Carpenter singled with one out, advanced to second when Jacoby Ellsbury let the ball get past him in center field for an error and scored when Carlos Beltran (of course) singled.

Then the fifth inning arrived, as did the beginning of the end. We all know about Lynn and his one bad inning. As an October special, it actually extended over two innings, the fifth and the sixth. Although the fifth inning actually could have been much worse, as a lead-off double by Ortiz (of course) and back-to-back walks to Jonny Gomes and Xander Bogaerts loaded the bases with no outs. Stephen Drew was next, with a sacrifice fly to left to tie the game — and the only run of the inning.

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Nightmare Game One Sets Cards Against The Odds

alexanderYuck.

Last night was a “Murphy’s Law” kind of night — not what the Cardinals wanted (or expected) in Game 1 of the World Series.

It was ugly all around. Adam Wainwright struggled as much as Waino ever does. Pete Kozma — in the game for his defensive abilities — had a pair of mistakes through two innings (one of which ended up in an overturned call at second base), and Shane Robinson bobbled a ball that resulted in three early runs.  Waino and Yadier Molina reinacted Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran’s lack of communication from the NLCS, watching a pop up drop between them. Beltran made a sensational leaping catch to rob Big Papi of a grand slam in the second inning, only to leave the game with a rib contusion from slamming into the low outfield wall.

With the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, David Freese played the opposite of World Series hero and bounced right into an inning-ending double play. The next inning, with runners at second and third with two away, it should have been Beltran’s at bat. Instead, it was Jon Jay who, despite coming up with some big hits before, wasn’t a likely hero against lefty Jon Lester.

Oh yeah. They were facing a lefty, too. Continue reading

Twas The Morn Of Game One

2013 WSTwas the morn of Game One, when all through the land
Every creature was scurrying ’round, every fan.
The schedule was cleared for that evening with care,
With hopes of a Cardinals win finding them there.

The ballpark sat ready, all quiet and snug,
But, soon it’d be roaring with noise from above.
Ringing through Fenway, from foul pole to foul pole
As 40,000 strong cheered loudly, with one goal.

For Boston or St. Lou, the die-hards would clatter,
Two cities alike, two rich histories that matter
Because, as they worked for a trophy, a ring,
They played for those lost, who could no longer sing.

A summer of victories, some home, some away,
Had led both the Sox and the Cards to this day.
As the hour crept closer, the sun fading fast,
The mission grew clearer, each knowing their task.

With Wainwright and Lester, the battle begins
Strikes early and often will help their team win.
Matheny will watch from his perch on the step,
Carefully planning which move he’ll try next.

Now Waino! Now Yadi! Now, Beltran, and Adams!
On David! On, Matt-squared! On, Jay, Pete and Allen!
To the top of the Monster! To the top of the wall!
Now smash away, mash away, bash that baseball!

Two teams that reflect one another’s best traits
Two fan bases ready to jump, shout and pace.
Since 2004 this reunion’s been wanted.
Revenge for the Birds, from the series that’s haunted.

The butterflies flutter, the energy builds
The team that we love soon will take to the field.
It’s this that they’ve worked for. It’s now that they can
Set the stage, stake their claim, finish the plan.

It’s the best time of year, it’s the autumnal classic
And baseball’s best teams hope for October magic.
With a chorus as one, clad in red fans will call,
“Let the series begin! Let’s go now! Let’s PLAY BALL!”

Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on twitter @tarawellman.

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Good, Better, Best Of Another Cardinals Classic Game Six

Six is storied number for the St. Louis Cardinals. The retired number of the greatest Cardinal Stan Musial, of course. A serious number, as we all know from the commercials. And October Games Sixes are pretty special as well.

3914_st_louis_cardinals-champion-2013Yes, “Game Six” immediately calls to mind the 2011 World Series — rightly so, as it’s one of the best World Series games in history with the majestic ninth and 10th inning comebacks and walk-off “we will see you tomorrow night!” 11th-inning moment.

But we can’t forget Game Six of the 1985 NLCS — against the Dodgers, no less — was another classic thanks to a ninth-inning game-winning pennant-clinching home run from Jack Clark. Or Jim Edmonds and his 12th-inning walk-off homer in 2004’s NLCS Game Six against the Astros.

Now we have another classic Game Six victory to remember fondly — and no home runs were necessary.

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On-Paper Advantage Falls Through In Game 3 Loss

Ah, the best laid plans. Lion

On paper, things were lining up perfectly for the Cardinals headed into last night’s NLCS Game 3. They’d beaten the Dodgers’ two star pitchers, and had Adam Wainwright on the mound. They were up 2-0 over a Los Angeles team that had struggled offensively even more than the Cardinals had, and they had a golden opportunity to put the first nail in the coffin.

Unfortunately, it’s games where the odds are with them that the Cardinals tend to struggle. And struggle they did. Continue reading

Wacha, Rookie Relievers And Thankfully A Passed Ball

While Michael Wacha didn’t come close to a no-hitter during Saturday’s Game Two of the NLCS, there were no complaints. Instead, it was just continued awe — of him as well as rookie relievers Kevin Siegrist, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal.

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The quartet (plus Randy Choate, who tripled his production to three pitches in Game Two) shut down the Dodgers in a no-room-for-error 1-0 Cardinals win, as the Cardinals managed to score with their only hits of the day being a first inning triple and fifth inning double.

It was the first 1-0 Cardinals postseason victory since that guy hugging Wacha in the picture at left beat the Phillies in Game Five of the 2011 NLDS.

Pitching really was the story of the game, as it has been whenever Wacha starts. And while he gave up five hits, scattered through four innings, he struck out eight — none bigger than the last.

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Wainwright Leaves No Doubt – Cardinals Are NLCS Bound!

Before Adam Wainwright took the mound  to try to carry the Cardinals into their third-straight NLCS, before newbie Matt Adams and Mr. October David Freese blasted their way past those pesky Pirates, before 47,000+ fans made their way through the gates at Busch III to see which team had more magic left, Adam Wainwright thought about his last NLDS Game 5 start. Waino Winner

That game didn’t quite go according to plan. Six runs in 2 1/3 innings? Not exactly vintage Waino. But, the Ace said, that may have been the problem. That night against the Nationals, Wainwright — who has always deeply admired Chris Carpenter — wanted to recreate a magical night from one year earlier: Carpenter’s shutout in Game 5 against the Phillies.

“To be honest, I wanted to replicate his game,” said Wainwright, whom the Nationals roughed up for six runs before the end of the third inning. “That was the wrong kind of thinking. I needed to be me. I needed to be focused and be prepared and be me.” Continue reading

Bizarro World Takes Over Cardinals In Game Two

Emotions are always higher in October. Friday’s NLDS Game Two unfortunately gave us an unwelcome reminder — just as wins are sweeter in the postseason, losses are even more painful.

NLDS game 2

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

It was another sunny and beautiful afternoon at Busch Stadium, but Game Two quickly became a bizarro world replay of Game One. Everything was reversed, as the Pirates won 7-1.

Well, Lance Lynn didn’t quite do an A.J. Burnett impression, as the five runs he allowed were over three separate innings instead of just one, but he looked more like the Lynn of August instead of September. Unfortunately.

The defensive misplays? The Cardinals this time, although only one official error — by David Freese — compared to the three by the Pirates on Thursday. But Jon Jay misjudged a fly ball in the second that fell in and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Yadier Molina — yes, Yadi — didn’t get a pop-up behind the plate. Matt Carpenter couldn’t get the ball out of his glove in what could have been a double play.

The bullpen management by Mike Matheny also was interesting, to say the least.

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Cardinals Cruise To Victory Thanks To October Stars

When October arrives and every game is more meaningful, some players shine brighter.

And those shining stars for the St. Louis Cardinals — Carlos Beltran, David Freese, Adam Wainwright — led the way to a 9-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates in Game One of the National League Division Series.

collage10-3-13It began in a wild and wonderful bottom of the third inning with, of all things, a walk to Wainwright by A.J. Burnett. (What’s the saying about leadoff walks?) Next was a single by Matt Carpenter to bring up Beltran.

And he simply “continued his postseason surge,” as Dick Stockton phrased it, launching a home run to the right field corner. See it again here, or just watch that gorgeous swing over and over again in super slow-mo in this gif at CBS Sports.

Yet the Cardinals were far from done in the inning.

Matt Holliday was up next and he doubled, followed by a hit-by-pitch to Matt Adams’ lower leg that had him sprawled across home plate. Next: a walk to Yadier Molina to load the bases. Six up, six reached, no outs, Jon Jay at the plate — and he too is walked to score Holliday. 4-0.

David Freese was the eighth man up, bases loaded, still no outs and, hey — it’s October now! So it was no surprise that Freese singled past Pirates first baseman Justin Morneau as both Adams and Yadi easily scored. Wait, Marlon Byrd’s throw in from right field ended up somewhere by the Cards dugout so Jay raced toward home and was safe — seven runs. No outs. Anyone else remember why they love Cardinals October baseball?

Perhaps not surprisingly, that was all for Burnett in the game. Jeanmar Gomez came in and retired the next three, including Wainwright and Carpenter for their second at-bats of the inning.

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Cardinals Are Central Champs — That Sounds Good!

With a magic number of one, it’s always best to take care of matters yourself and win to clinch. That’s exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals did, easily, in beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 to become 2013 National League Central champions.

That's a clinching winner! (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

That’s a clinching winner! (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

And the celebration began!

It’s the first time since 2009 that the Cardinals are division champs, and last night’s win was number 95 on the season (to give them a nice 95-65 record after 160 games). Last time the Cards won 95 games? Back in 2005, when they won 100.

Yes, we are spoiled by our team with their ongoing success as they’ll be playing in October for the 10th time since 2000. We also are spoiled by watching some terrific baseball from them this month alone — they’re now 17-8 in September.

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