The initial blast at 10am-
A mini Buffa Blast begins now…
Last night’s unbelievable comeback was the best game I have ever seen, scoreboard days or at home. A 4.5 hour nail biting, frustrating, nailbiting and ultimately satisfying win. Everything about the season came into play last night. Horrible defense, bad starting pitching, a lack of early clutch hitting, and back and forth scoreboard changes. The 2011 Cards showed up in full proof form and made us sweat until midnight. David Freese, the hometown hero who gave up on baseball and came back to it only to arrive in St. Louis for the departed Jim Edmonds and become a World Series hero. After dropping a pop up earlier in the game that led to a run, Freese redeemed himself in the greatest fashion. Out of all the monsters in our lineup, who could have guessed the former alcoholic injury prone hometown kid would be the Rangers slayer. If baseball was a video game, Freese wouldn’t be gaining points, he’d be winning back brain cells. His home run was the greatest postseason home run since Jim Edmonds walkoff shot in Game 6 of the NLCS in 2004. Down to their last strike twice, the Cards came back and won, 10-9 on two huge Freese hits and a Lance Berkman single. I have a lot more to say and I will try here. This will have to do. Waking up this morning to a Game 7 was bittersweet. Tonight brings elevated joy or a small collapse into sadness. One thing is for sure. I will never forget Game 6 from the 2011 World Series. It will live on as one of the greatest of all time. Buster Olney called it the greatest of all time. Bill Simmons said he called the matchup of “Darren Oliver and Kyle Lohse in the 10th inning” all day. Heroes are made in October. David Freese became one this month.
I love this team. Everything about them. Easily the greatest stretch of play I’ve seen in my lifetime. On the biggest stage in sports, the Cardinals are coming up with some of the most dramatically entertaining baseball. How about another round of calculated torture for the masses tonight? Every Cardinal fan walks up to the bar of temptation today and asks for another drink. One more drink and then I’m gone.
Game 6 goats are Jaime Garcia for pitching 3 innings and handing back a lead. Garcia threw 63 pitches through 3 and made several mistakes. A rough end to his season. Rangers starter Colby Lewis outpitched him. Matt Holliday broke up a key double play at second in the 6th inning but dropped a crucial fly ball in left field and got picked off third base in a rally. Holliday needs to sit tonight in favor of the hotter hitting Allen Craig, who hit a solo homer off Derek Holland in the 8th inning. Albert Pujols wore the collar until he started the 9th inning rally with a double. Jason Motte got beat for a 2 run homer in the 10th off Josh Hamilton. Rafael Furcal continued his horrible hitting, failing to spark at the top of the lineup. While I like him in there for defense, Furcal has to get on base to set up the big bats.
Game 3 heroes, silent and loud. After Freese, Berkman has 3 hits, including a 2 run homer in the first and a game tying single in the 10th inning. Jake Westbrook pitched a scoreless 11th inning and picked up the win. Tony La Russa managed a good game, pulled the right strings and didn’t overthink his motives tonight. Well managed game from the dugout. A bizarre Game 5 loss featuring some of Tony’s greatest demons produced an impressive Game 6 recovery.
This team has been fighting for the last 7 weeks. Being casted off in late August by everyone(including myself), left for dead and bleeding, the Cards stormed back to win the Wild Card, upset the Phillies and the Brewers, and have taken The Rangers, seeking their first World Series in 40 years, to Game 7 with lesser pitching, a hurting bullpen and a streaky lineup. If this team doesn’t inspire you, there’s no blood running through your veins and pumping your heart my friends. Game 6 decisions are what every kid dreams about as a kid, what every adult craves and what every writer(low key like myself included) dream to cover. All I thought about last night after Freese’s homer sailed into the grass was the words I would use to describe it. Let’s look ahead and end this thing.
What does Game 7 look like? Good for the Cards. Chris Carpenter is pitching tonight, and carries the shaved head bearded look of a man looking to close down the series. Classic Carp needs to show up tonight. Rangers players Mike Napoli and Nelson Cruz hurt themselves last night and join the list of the walking wounded. Ron Washington wore out his bullpen and roster last night. He made some gutsy calls and they backfired, proving every decision by a manager comes down to the players backing up their thinking. Opposing Carp is Game 3 starter Matt Harrison, whom the Cards beat up for 6 runs. The tables aren’t set against the Rangers, but a common thought running through my head last night as we came back was, “If the Cards manage to win this game, Game 7 will seem like a walk in the park.” You never know in baseball, so all bets are off. However, if I had house money, it would be on the Cards. They carry a Rocky mentality right now. A never say die inner strength. Every time they get knocked down, we think they are done and start wrapping up the season in our minds. Then, like the Philidephia bruiser, this team gets back up, throws a big punch and gets back into the fight, asking for more. The 2011 Cardinals are hard to count out because they are so hard to knock out.
I said it before and I’ll say it again my friends. This team wasn’t expected to win anything but now has the chance to win everything. Amazing. Unlike anything I’ve seen in my 29 years on this planet.
Thanks for playing and Go Cards!
Tonight, we play for the prize. The ultimate distinction of champion of your sport. Do or die begins at 7pm. Are you ready? I am more than willing to sacrifice another night to the Rogues in Red.
Let’s finish the job!
-Dan L. Buffa
The Follow up At 4pm-
Adron Chambers in for Matt Holliday for Game 7
A solid move based on the condition of Holliday, who left Thursday’s game with a bruised ego and sprained wrist. Holliday has dealt with a variety of injuries all season, starting with an appendectomy in May, back issues August, leg injuries in September and a right hand issue in October. The injuries have zapped his power(no homers in last 101 abs) and limited him heavily in the World Series, where he is 3-19 with a ton of runners left on base. This isn’t a smack to Holliday, one of the better all around players in the game. Missing 38 games in the regular season, Holliday still hit .296 with 22 home runs, 75 RBI, .388 on base percentage and 36 doubles. He is a bargain in left field, especially after the Crawford and Werth retarded deals. Holliday plays harder than anyone on the team and did everything he could. Right now, he isn’t healthy, effective or the right choice. He sits. Chambers gives team speed and a decent at bat.
Chris Carpenter in for Game 7 against Harrison, offiically
Matt Harrison only allowed 3 earned runs on Saturday, but he threw 73 pitches in 3.2 innings and looked weak. Harrison is a 4th arm in the rotation and went 13-9 with a 4.00 ERA in the regular season. He hasn’t pitched over 5 innings in a start since early September. Carpenter is working on 3 days rest but is still the best option for the Cards. He is an intense competitor and will be able to adjust to a less than sharper array of pitches. Carp is the general and he gets the ball because he carries the highest win probability on the Cards and shut the Rangers down in Game 1 and 5. In 13 innings pitched in the World Series, Carp has allowed 4 earned runs and 11 hits to go with 8 strikeouts and 3 walks. He is the better option over Lohse and Jackson, who produced little in their starts resembling quality. Carpenter gives you an edge that can’t be prescribed per notice.
*Should Cruz have caught Holliday’s drive in right? People are debating this IN ST. LOUIS this morning so much? First thing, it was hit to the right field wall. Cruz didn’t get a good jump and when he did jumped out for it, he missed it. Why is this a big issue? It worked out well for Cards and made Freese a temporary hero. This should only catch fire in Texas.
*Again, Matt Holliday is hurt and can’t contribute much other than a walk at the plate. He is banged up and that comes from playing a hard 9 every night. He broke up a key double play in the 6th, drew 2 walks last night and while he was picked off third, his presence was felt. When he left, we rallied but I miss him on the roster. He had a rough 2011 season due to injury, something that didn’t affect him during 2009 and 2010, when he played 156 and 158 games respectively. If Holliday is hurt and is ineffective, that’s the reason he is resting tonight. He’ll be hungry in 2012 and his role may be a lot bigger.
*For all the people bashing Pujols, remember he started the rally in the 9th inning with a double. Also, let’s stop the “Except for Game 3” slaps. Its a valid point but remember what he did in Game 3. He turned a 8-6 game into a 16-7 slaughter with 3 home runs. For the ones who want to sit Albert because of his lack of hitting, don’t forget he is the complete package. Defense, clutch hitting and an ability to take over a game. Also, the ultimate team player. See him on the top step of the dugout during rallies like a leader? Albert Pujols is baseball, people.
*Watching last night’s game, you got the feeling that the Rangers were losing the grip on the game and their abilities. Cruz fading back on the ball. Washington pinch hitting for his best reliever Scott Feldman after letting Colby Lewis hit for himself earlier. If Wash lets Feldman hit, the game is still tied but his best bullpen arm is still pitching. Big loss of thought that brought up Wash’s lack of experience even when considering last year’s Rangers World Series trip. The Cards got better as the game went along while the Rangers started to lose it. That’s because the Rangers thought the game was won in the 9th inning. After struggling to be dominant in the series, Naftali Feliz blew a save and his team unraveled.
*Allen Craig playing for Holliday is a plus because Craig is swinging a good bat right now. He can work a long count and punish a mistake. He homered in the first off Harrison in Game 3. While hitting 2nd in front of Albert is a decent thought, keeping Craig’s bat down below in the 7th hole aka The Freese launch pad, is also deadly. Think about. Power down below.
*Lineup for the final game needs to roll like this.
Furcal-SS, Skip-CF, Pujols-lB, Berkman-RF, Freese-3B, Molina-C, Craig-LF, Theriot-2B, Carp-P
Enough with lefties facing lefties. Skip is swinging a good bat and has a better arm in center than Jay. Theriot gets the nod over Punto, who has had a terrible playoff at the plate.
*The greatest thing about winning Game 6 is hearing the chatter today. Agree with it or not, it’s good to hear it around town. Walking into a gas station and hearing about where people were at, talking to the UPS guy at work about him taking his son to it and telling the kid he could stay home from school or hearing the grocery ladies jabbering about the celebration. The Cardinals are battling for the ultimate price. Champions. Love the talk around town about team.
I’ll say it again. Win or lose, I love this team and what they have done. The ride they have taken us on the past month will be hard to match next season or in the future. From the cellar to the captain’s chair in 7 weeks. Amazing. This is something to remember tonight after the last out, win or lose. Remember what this team did in 2011. It means something. Correction-It Means Everything. It is better to have loved and got burned than not loved at all.
Play ball, ladies and gents. Thanks for reading. Take your meds, be patient and don’t quit on this team. The population of Rangers jerseys and cheers early on last night told me a lot of Cards fans bailed on their seats with their team down 3-2. They missed the greatest game of all time. Don’t quit on this team until the final out. They deserve the attention.
Tonight, it all ends.
South STL Nerve Center aka Voice of the People