Cardinals Backs Against The Wall? That’s Familiar

The St. Louis Cardinals lose a heartbreaker in the postseason and now face a must-win game — where have we seen this before?

Oh, that’s right. Last October. And the October before that.

Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

                      Photos: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

And how did those particular division series turn out?

Yes, it’s a very familiar October situation in which the Cardinals find themselves after falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 yesterday. The game was definitely winnable, which perhaps makes the loss even more painful.

Too many of the automatics from the 2013 Cardinals — hitting with runners in scoring positions, the rookies in the bullpen coming through when called upon — didn’t happen.

So here we are.

One person who is automatic in October, and continued the trend yesterday, was Carlos Beltran. You’ll remember that he tied Babe Ruth on Thursday with his 15th career postseason homer. Thanks to his eighth inning game-tying blast off Mark Melancon yesterday, he’s now surpassed The Babe with his 16th in 136 at-bats (compared to Ruth’s 15 in 129 at-bats). Surprisingly — or perhaps not, given the record at PNC Park this year — that was the first home run the Cardinals have hit there this season.

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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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The Cardinals Bird’s Eye View: NLDS Preview

Hey, these guys look familiar, don’t they?

Yes, it’s the National League Division Series, with the St. Louis Cardinals taking on the Pittsburgh Pirates once again … although the stakes are higher than they have been all season. No more battle for the division lead anymore — now it’s the race for three wins to move on and face either the Atlanta Braves or Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

Here’s a preview of the NLDS in the latest issue The Bird’s Eye View from the United Cardinal Bloggers, which I wrote. You can subscribe to The Bird’s Eye View here — it will continue this season as long as the Cardinals do.

Birds Eye View HeaderIn less than seven hours, the first-ever postseason meeting between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will begin. Of course, the Pirates are not an unknown foe to the Cardinals since the two teams have played 19 times this season already. And, as you probably know, the Pirates won 10 of the 19 but the Cardinals won the final four match-ups.

The Cardinals finished the season 97-65, which was the best record in the National League and tied with the Boston Red Sox for best in MLB. The 97 wins are the most for the Cardinals since 2005, when they were 100-62.

As is very well known, this is the Pirates first winning season and first postseason appearance since 1992. Their regular season record this year was 94-68, their most wins (obviously) since 1992’s 96-66 finish.

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Cardinals Release Details on Division Series at Busch

With their first Central Division title since 2009 and the best record in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have home field advantage in the best-of-five 2013 National League Division Series that starts Thursday in St. Louis against familiar rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Cardinals are making their 10th appearance in the postseason since 2000 and the 26th postseason appearance in franchise history.

3471__nlds-primary-2013A number of tickets for the Division Series games at Busch Stadium are available at

Here are details on how fans can enjoy postseason baseball in St. Louis.

Game Schedule & Highlights

NLDS Game 1 – Thursday, October 3, 2013 – Busch Stadium – 4:07 p.m. on TBS

  • 1 – 3 p.m.  Pre-Game Pep Rally in Ballpark Village Parking Lot
    • Music by DJ Todd Thomas, entertainment, prizes, Fredbird, Team Fredbird, 2011 World Series trophy, Hardee’s Mobile Diner and more
    • Former Cardinal pitcher Andy Benes will sign autographs from 2 -3 p.m.
    • Budweiser Clydesdales will be staged in the Ballpark Village Lot
  • Gates open at 2 p.m.
  • All fans receive a Cardinals Rally Towel, courtesy of Mercy
  • Pre-Game Ceremony starts at approximately 3:30 p.m.
    • Budweiser Clydesdales will parade the warning track
    • National Anthem by Four Digit Chord, an a cappella group of civilian and military volunteers at Scott Air Force Base
    • Service members from Scott Air Force Base will hold a large flag during the anthem
    • Colors presented by 375 AMW Honor Guard at Scott Air Force Base
    • Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon will throw the ceremonial first pitch

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And Then There Were Two: Cards Face Pirates In NLDS

Pirates vs CardsWith the Pirates handily beating the Reds in last night’s Wild Card game, they are now set to return to face the team that snatched the division title out from underneath them. A team they’ve beaten 10 times this season, including four in a row during one abnormally difficult stretch for the now NLC Champs. The Pirates have been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side all season. And it’s not over yet.

Sure, the Reds would have likely been an easier challenge. They seemed to run out of steam about a a week ago. Not to mention, the Cardinals have fared far better against Cincy than Pittsburgh in 2013. Avoiding the pesky Pirates in another five-game series would have boosted the Cardinals’ chances.

But, as they say, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. And between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati? The best team is headed to St. Louis.

One more time this season, the Cardinals better be doing their homework on the Pirates.

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For Today Anyway, Go Pirates!

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t rooting for the Cardinals to have the best record in the National League. Yes, it’s a great distinction to have and home field advantage is obviously a terrific benefit. But I didn’t want the Cardinals to play the wild card team in the division series.

Or either of these wild card teams, anyway.

pirateslogoEspecially the Reds.

Let me channel my inner-Brandon-Phillips (and I’m ready to puke just for typing those words) and let me make this clear: I hate the Reds. I hate Dusty Baker, I hate Johnny Cueto, I hate Bronson Arroyo — I could keep going down the list but I especially hate Phillips. Oh, and Thom Brennaman. And sorry, Ryan Ludwick, I even hate you when you have that uniform on. So, the 19 times that the Cardinals have already played them this season is much more than enough.

I hate the Reds. Go away, be done, go home.

Which brings me to the Pirates.

And the fact I like the Pirates.

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Division Series Times Through Saturday Announced

Major League Baseball today announced the start times for all Division Series games through Saturday. TBS will exclusively televise up to 18 of the 20 potential Division Series games, while MLB Network will carry two Division Series games – one on Friday, October 4, and the other on Monday, October 7.

3471__nlds-primary-2013The National League Central Champion St. Louis Cardinals will host the winner of the National League Wild Card Game (either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the Cincinnati Reds) in Game 1 of the N.L. Division Series at Busch Stadium on Thursday, October 3, at 5:07 p.m. (ET)/4:07 p.m. (CT).

In the evening, the N.L. East Champion Atlanta Braves will host the N.L. West-winning Los Angeles Dodgers with an 8:37 p.m. (ET) first pitch in Game 1 of the NLDS at Turner Field. Both of Thursday’s games will be exclusively televised by TBS.

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