I’ll make this quick. The Cardinals took Game 4 last night and have forced a Game 5 winner take all with the Phillies. The proper thing to do is to list the players of the game. An important win yields many heroes but certain players commit game changing plays that goes by people’s eyes every time. As my good friend Carlin pointed out, Albert Pujols was the quiet MVP last night with his two defensive plays. Let’s run down the list.
Pujols definitely deserves a fair nod for his efforts at first base. This is exactly why Albert is one of the greatest players of all time. On a night where he goes 0-4 at the plate, he still dominates the outcome with a defensive gem. His ability to do the little things is incredible. Utley forgot who was over at first base when he attempted to steal third and Albert nailed him. A play that I think goes beyond gold glove. More like golden minded. This is something we come to expect from Albert. A great play. In the 8th, Albert did have to range high to grab the hop off the bag and it just goes to show you how truly valuable he is. He makes plays at first look so easy. Flipping the ball to the pitcher, taking grounders to the bag or ranging outside the line for a foul ball putout. In a word, Albert is amazing.
While his plays were genius, there are a few other stars of the game. Players who produced huge moments.
1.)Edwin Jackson shutting down the Phillies after the first inning barrage of hits. Jackson stopped throwing the fastball and started pumping sinkers and changeups away. His recovery set the tone for the night. Jackson proved his worth last night by staying alive long enough to let the Cards come back on Oswalt. In the 6th inning, holding a 3-2 lead, Jackson left two runners on and plowed through the middle of the Phillies mighty order. He retired Pence and Howard to end the inning after some doubted he had anything left. Edwin Jackson produced a typical Action Jackson performance. 6 innings pitched and 2 earned runs.
2.)David Freese’s two huge hits. Freese broke Oswalt with a 2 run double and a game winning two run blast that seemed to travel 450 feet to center. The most underrated hitter on the Cards delivered after a 2-12 start to the series. Freese did it in his hometown and has truly come a long way. From a Edmonds trade chip, to a talented problem child to a talented injury prone player to a clutch hitter in the 6th or 7th spot. The kid has quietly delivered all season, but nobody will forget his homer last night.
3.)Jason Motte gets considerable credit for slamming the door. Another rookie who has traveled the stairway to Cardinal heaven. Motte came in like a beast out of a cage, falling behind Victorino 3-0 before inducing a grounder, blowing away Ibanez on a 98 mph chest high smoker and getting Polanco to pop out. Motte’s save last night was his defining moment as a Cardinal. With his team’s neck on the chopping block, Motte delivered the final bullet.
4.)Marc Rzepcynski. Simple. With the tying run at the plate in Ryan Howard, Scrabble fired 3 consecutive strikes and put the other hometown kid down. This was the showdown of the game and the puzzle of a lefty delivered with a nasty changeup down and away.
5.) Matt Holliday contributed 2 hits and 2 runs scored. When he is in the lineup, Holliday changes things. A true animal in the lineup. Its fun to watch this guy run the bases. I don’t know if its a natural thing but when Holliday runs towards home plate he looks like an enraged gorilla looking to run right through a catcher. He looks possessed. He runs like a linebacker. Good to see him back.
With their backs against the wall, The Cards fought back and delivered. Again. Its hard to not feel a rugged sense of nostalgia for this team’s ability to survive. Who could have guessed on September 1st this team would not only be in the playoffs but taking the World Series picked team to 5 games in a division series. Amazing. Right now, the pressure is on Philly. They were the team that was supposed to ride th chariot to the World Series with their “best that money could buy” rotation. Now they are against the wall.
Vegas is picking the Phillies in Game 5. The Cardinals will do everything they can to stop them. At this point, every team is chasing a dream.
The pitching matchup is perfect. Chris Carpenter, fully rested, taking on old friend and new foe Doc Roy Halladay. These two guys will leave everything on the field. Carpenter is definitely the guy I want on the mound defending the end of the season. The last time he took the mound with our season on the line, he fired a complete game shutout. Friday night, I’ll take 7 strong innings. The Phillies crowd will be loud and crazy, and that is something the Cardinals will have to deal with. At this point, every player is used to the sea of white flags. Here’s to hoping the Cards don’t have to raise their own on Friday in Philly.
The Cardinals won’t shock the world by beating Philly, but they will upset the established order of things. The Cards are 25-10 since the start of September and are showing no signs of letting up. In their two losses in this series, they made 9th inning comebacks that fell short. However, the hunger is there. Will the skill level match up to it?
Winner take all ladies and gentlemen. The most exciting game in sports takes place on Friday night.