Game 3: Important To Win? Yes, But …

The setting for the National League Division Series now shifts to Chicago’s North Side, with Game 3 starting later today at 5 p.m. Central Time.

As you’re no doubt aware, it’s The Jake Arrieta Show!!! — meaning why are the Cardinals even bothering to play today, right? Shouldn’t they just forfeit and go have a nice team dinner instead — especially since, according to a stat I heard Matt Vasgersian spout off before yesterday’s Game 3 in the American League Division Series between the Royals and Astros — the team that wins Game 3 takes the entire series 80 percent of the time?

NLDS logoStatistics … they’re great.

Given that the Cardinals have a recent postseason history to look back on, we can also see just how that 80 percent stat holds up for our Redbirds — especially helpful considering the Cards won all four series.

Against the Dodgers in last year’s NLDS, they won Game 3 with Kolten Wong’s seventh inning 2-run homer putting them ahead, 3-1.

In 2013, Game 3 was in Pittsburgh, with Joe Kelly starting against Francisco Liriano … who was pretty unbeatable at home then, if you remember. Neither of the starters factored in the final outcome — a 5-3 Pittsburgh win.

Looking back to 2012 and the NLDS against the Nationals, Game 3 was a start by Chris Carpenter against Edwin Jackson — and Edwin was kind to his old teammates from the previous year. The Cards easily won 8-0.

Then there’s 2011. Game 3 was the first at Busch Stadium of the series, with the Phillies taking this one 3-2. All of the Phillies runs came on a home run by Ben Francisco, pinch-hitting for Cole Hamels in the seventh inning, off Jaime Garcia.

In summary, in their four-year run of winning the division series and advancing to the NLCS, the Cardinals have won Game 3 twice — then gone on to lose the NLCS. They’ve lost Game 3 twice, obviously still advanced to the NLCS, won the National League pennant each year, and then both won and lost the World Series.

So when all the hype kicks in about The Jake Arrieta Show!!! during the game (which I’ll definitely have the television muted for), just remember that losing this game isn’t necessarily doom and gloom for the Cardinals — despite any statistics the announcers (or Cubs fans) might spout off.



Once Again, The Cardinals Shine In September

It’s September. Here come the Cardinals!

SeptemberYes, September has become the St. Louis Cardinals month in recent years. That, of course, has led them right into October baseball for the past three seasons. And, at this stage, it would take something beyond extraordinary for that streak to not reach four straight years — the magic number for playing in the postseason is now just one. [UPDATE: Thanks to the Pirates beating the Brewers this afternoon 1-0, the Cards are officially in!]

Last night’s 8-4 Cardinals victory over the Reds was their 14th win this month, to go with just five losses. Speaking of five, that’s the magic number for clinching the NL Central — and it’s the magic number that means something, since it guarantees playing in the division series. Only seven games remain in September, yet the Cards still have just a 3 1/2 game lead over the second-place Pirates. They’ve had a good September as well, going 12-6 thus far, which is why the Cards’ magic number isn’t decreasing as quickly as it could.

Still, this month has been the Cardinals’ time to shine going back to the “September to remember” in 2011. Continue reading

Cardinals Haiku Wednesday: World Series Rematch

Ah, Red Sox against Cardinals: the rematch.


2013 WSI’m not yet over the World Series — what about you? (Actually, I’m not yet over the 2004 World Series — what about you?)

Yet today’s schedule brings the Red Sox to Jupiter, which means that it’s not going to exactly be a lineup for Boston like we saw last October. (Hopefully that means less horrid facial hair.) Although looking at the Cardinals lineup, with Yadier Molina behind the plate for the first time this spring, seems to say “ooooh, this is serious.”

Or that Yadi’s tired of just hitting.

But, given that FOX Sports Midwest is bringing today’s game, you know Dan and Al will be on the THIS IS SERIOUS! bandwagon. Because they love nothing more than hyping things, don’t they? And, based on last weekend’s broadcasts, they also love telling us about everything we watched last October and have already moved on from, although they didn’t have the chance to tell us all about it in their hyped-up giddy way at the time so they have to remind us over and over now … and in April when real games start.

Anyway, poetry time.

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Choosing My New Favorite Cardinal

Everyone has a favorite player, right? That’s part of the enjoyment of watching the Cardinals or any sports team you like, keeping up with the individual accomplishments of your guy along with the team overall.

collage3-3As time passes and seasons go on, however, your favorite eventually, and unfortunately, goes on also — to retirement, to another team. And then what?

That’s where I’ve found myself with the official retirement of Chris Carpenter. Ever since I saw him standing in the dugout before a game at old Busch Stadium in 2004, he was my guy … and I was never shy about stating that. And even though he didn’t pitch much after Game Seven of the 2011 World Series, he remained my favorite Cardinal. Sure, there were others I enjoyed watching during those 10 seasons — outfielder Rick Ankiel and Lance Berkman — and enjoy now, like Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal. Peter Bourjos and his high socks are making a strong first impression too. But no one whose jersey I’d buy (especially since my Chris Carpenter jersey is still in fine shape, thank you).

Yet I’ve found one now. And, not surprisingly, he’s a pitcher.

I’ve always admired pitchers. Not that any player on a big league roster isn’t worthy of admiration just for making it to that level, but the way a pitcher — good or bad — controls a game is just something I find appealing.

Michael Wacha obviously can control a game quite well, as everyone discovered last season. Easy choice for a new favorite, right?

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Mariano Rivera, Skip Schumaker and Michael Wacha — Oh My!

What do the just-retired greatest closer of all time, a Cardinal-turned-Dodger-now-turned Red and the Cardinals rookie sensation all have in common? Nothing, it would seem — yet posts we wrote about those three were what you read the most at Aaron Miles’ Fastball in 2013.

12-31 collageAfter looking at our picks for the top five stories of the year yesterday, we close out the year today with a look at the most-read posts. And, as you can already see, it’s certainly not a Cardinals only list — although of course they dominate the list. Just not at the top.

No, our No. 1 post of the year (in terms of readership numbers) is one about the man who is used to ending things instead of starting them, Mariano Rivera. Watching the All-Star Game tribute to Mo on July 16 reminded me of the time my Yankees friend Kat and I went to Busch Stadium in 2005 for the Yankees-Cardinals series. We had the opportunity to see something very few people probably even noticed before that Sunday’s game, which I wrote about in The Tale of Mariano Rivera and The Ball Thrown Out of Busch Stadium. It was a fun, entertaining post — and it ended up in Deadspin (which was a surreal moment, and one I had to capture via screenshot). So lots and lots and lots of people ended up reading about what Mo did that day, and it was by far our most read post of the year.

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Our Choices For Top Five 2013 Cardinals Stories

This year will be known as yet another great one for the St. Louis Cardinals, with so much that has happened over the past 365 days — and with so much of it good. Given there are now just today and tomorrow left in 2013, it’s time to take a look back. And as part of the United Cardinal Bloggers’ December project, here are our top five Cardinals stories for 2013.

1. Cardinals win the National League pennant

12733927After finishing the regular season tied for the best record in the majors at 97-65 and winning the NL Central for the first time since 2009, the Cardinals didn’t stop once October arrived. They handled the Pirates in the division series and then headed to the NLCS for the third consecutive year, this time to face the Dodgers.

The Cards were victorious and clinched the pennant in six games, thanks especially to the incredible starting pitching from NLCS MVP Michael Wacha. So for the second time in three years, third time in eight years and 19th time overall, the Cardinals were National League champions and advanced to the World Series.

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Cardinal Love Letter: Michael Wacha

Dear Michael,

How’s it going, buddy? Of course you’ve bounced back from the last time we all met, almost two weeks ago now, and seeing you that night was rough. Every Cardinals fan out there just wanted to give you a hug after watching you leave the pitcher’s mound at Fenway Park — even my uncle Jim, who rarely hugs anybody.

MLB: St Louis Cardinals-Photo DayYes, the night was incredibly disappointing but the Cardinals wouldn’t even have been in the situation, Game Six of the World Series, without you. And now, with a little time and a little perspective, hopefully you can see and appreciate that.

Because, in the big picture, what a season for you! And, especially, what an October!

Seriously, how can any of us as Cardinals fans decide which game of yours from this season was our favorite? I definitely have a difficult time.

Was it your final regular season start, that oh-so-very-close-to-a-no-hitter against the Nationals on Sept. 24? It was special because of its unexpectedness at that particular moment and, of course, incredible to watch (especially for someone who loves pitching like I do).

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Memories Help Come To Terms With The Season’s End

The manila envelope arrived on Thursday, the familiar handwriting of my Cardinals fan uncle Jim across the front scrawling out my name and address.

Upon removing it from the mailbox, I could immediately tell it wasn’t his usual gift of a Cardinals t-shirt — that kind of package will likely arrive in the months ahead, after the postseason merchandise ends up on clearance.

WS newspapersNo, this envelope contained something sturdier yet flexible. A magazine, perhaps?

I ripped open the end of the envelope and saw newspapers. Further inspection revealed special sections from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the World Series. Given the timing, not even 24 hours after Game Six and the Cardinals season had ended, I could only take a quick glance before replacing the newspapers in the envelope and tossing it on my desk. Too painful to investigate right away.

This morning, up early, curiosity — and coming to better terms with what happened in the final three games of the World Series — got the best of me. With a cup of coffee in hand, I went back to the envelope and removed the newspapers to have a closer look. They were all from Oct. 25 and Oct. 26, last Friday and Saturday’s editions of the Post-Dispatch, and are filled with stories on the Game Two victory in Boston and previews of Game Three at home in Busch Stadium plus page after page of glorious, full-color player and game photos.

Some of the articles were ones I’d read online last week, yet seeing them again and in print and now knowing just what was to come gave me a much different perspective. Especially of Bernie Miklasz’s column from one week ago today, in the photo above at the top left: “Can Cards Win Out?”

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Cardinals Fall Just Short Of Ultimate Goal

No legendary Game Six magic this time in the World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals — unfortunately.

Which means thus ends the 2013 season.

baseball_fall-ballAnd in the World Series, with just two teams left playing, only one can celebrate as champions. As I said the other day, these October losses hurt more the farther we go — and this final one hurts most of all.

In the big picture of the 2013 season, what a ride for the Cardinals. Best record in the majors, National League Central champs for the first time in four years, two MVP contenders, rookie after rookie shining on the pitchers mound and so much more — plus winning the National League pennant in a tremendous month of October baseball.

Still, despite all the success, it didn’t end how any of us wanted. There should be celebrations by our team, not those terrible sad looks and tears.

And we each mourn that the Cardinals fell short of the final destination in our own individual way.

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The Deeper Into October, The Harder The Losses

No one ever enjoys watching their team lose.

As Cardinals fans, we’ve had the good fortune to watch great games from our team throughout 2013, with 97 wins in the regular season and nine wins in October. Fantastic, each game in its own way. Every single victory.

BuschYet not every game was as bright and beautiful as this picture of a sun-drenched Busch Stadium. There also were the 65 regular season losses, made all the more painful when they came in bunches — three in a row from time to time, the brutal seven-game streak in late July.

And now the Cards have seven October losses following last night’s Game Five defeat to the Red Sox by the score of 3-1. It’s the second time this month they’ve lost two in a row.

But this latest loss feels so much worse, that much harder to take than losing Games Two and Three of the NLDS to the Pirates. Which makes sense — the stage is bigger in the World Series, more people are watching and paying attention as the teams still playing now stand at only two.  And the bigger the stage, the deeper into October we get, the more magnified everything is. Which makes the losses even tougher — especially losses in the World Series, and back-to-back losses at Busch Stadium where  the Cardinals have had so much success this season.

To lose the final home game of the year … ugh.

That’s not how any of us wanted it to play out, obviously.

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