I told myself I wasn’t going to talk about this loss. It was a straight up triumph for the Nationals. They clawed, fought and battled for every inch to force a game 5. It was a clear yet stomach churning loss. Tomorrow night, they get their shot. The Cardinals have been warned. The Nationals will not go easy. Let’s make this quick and painful. Everybody knows that a guy like me has to explain it in order to get rid of it. Here we go.
For starters, I don’t want to hear about Jim Joyce’s strike zone. This is like complaining about the shadows at the start of the game. Its exactly like complaining about the weather, gas prices or a politician’s soul. Useless talk. The strike zone was horrible. Inconsistent. Endless trouble for the hitters. However, the reason it isn’t worth a lengthy discussion is because Joyce was unfair to both sides all night. ALL NIGHT. Let’s move on.
A cap tip to the Nationals pitching staff. Russ Detwiler came out and pitched the game of his life. Under the microscope of Steven Strasburg’s absence, Detwiler(from Wentzville, MO) carved up the Cards with his versatile array of pitches. The lefthander didn’t let the Cards get the early lead, quiet the crowd and take over the fate of the season. He matched Kyle Lohse inning for inning. The bullpen took over in the 7th inning and struck out 7 batters in getting their 9 outs. Jordan Zimmerman wanted to atone for his horrible Game 2 start and fired heat. Tim Clippard and Drew Storen struck out four more and put away the Cardinals. A good baseball fan knows when your team is outgunned and tonight they were outlasted, beat to the punch and dominated by the bullpen.
Lohse and Detwiler each yielded a run but held the game in check at 1-1. The Nationals bullpen outpitched the Cards bullpen. Lohse fired 7 inning of gutsy brilliant pitching, giving the Cardinals every opportunity to take the lead and the series. Mitchell Boggs gave a scoreless frame. Saving Jason Motte for a possible extra inning close, manager Mike Matheny put Lance Lynn on the mound for the ninth. Good move. Lynn can fire off multiple innings, as he did Monday. He has been great all week. However, he threw 13 pitches to Jayson Werth in the ninth. 12 of them were four seam fastballs. Werth hammered #13 into the Cardinals bullpen in left field, right over Motte’s head. I know the four seam heater is Lynn’s bread and butter pitch, but he survived all season because he keeps a changeup in his command. He fired it and barely missed on a 2-2 pitch to Werth. Why not throw it again? Leadoff walks are killer, but serving up heat to a fastball lover at the plate is a kill shot. Lance Lynn wouldn’t relent and got burned for it. A cap tip to Werth. He knew what was coming. He guessed right. That is a hitter’s main objective. Go up to the plate looking for one pitch. Multiple pitch searches will leave you carved up. Mark McGwire teaches his hitters to look for only one pitch. Werth found a 3-2 heater down the middle and swung just fast enough. He did and the Cards were burned. The minute that pitch sailed over the left field wall, a large image of Gio Gonzalez appeared in my head. A 21 game winner who pitched like dogshit in Game 1 gets to come home tomorrow night and pitch in a place he was comfortable in 2012. Gio likes Washington’s security. The capitol serves him well. His numbers are nearly identical when it is split between home and road games, except for one key stat. Earned run average. Gio has a 2.38 ERA at home as opposed to a 3.31 on the road. He only allowed three home runs there in 90.2 innings. In Game 1 he pitched decent enough to keep the Cards at 2 runs while giving 8 walks and a hit. He survived Busch and gets to return to the center stage tomorrow night. Great pitchers rise to the occasion. Higher than anyone else on a big stage. We all know Adam Wainwright will show up tomorrow and bring everything he’s got. He closed out the Mets in 2006 and threw the last pitch of the World Series. He pitched well in Game 1. He is a bulldog and craves the stage like his rotation soldier Chris Carpenter. Will Gio rise up tomorrow? As a Cardinals fan, let’s hope not.
Kyle Lohse pitched his tail off tonight. Seven innings with a run allowed and a stout performance. Lohse was a horse all season. 16-3 record in the regular season. He wins the wild card game against the Braves. After two injury plagued crappy seasons, Lohse delivered a decent season and finished it with a stellar season. Good luck Kyle. Still a weak fucking name for a boy.
Any die hard fan knows when a game is going south. Watching the Cardinals put on a few baserunners tonight and leave them stranded. Watch the consistently flabbergasted Matt Holliday whip around and look at the umpire like a little dog who just got his bone taken away from him. Watch the constantly overmatched Daniel Descalso swing for a high strike. Watch the Cardinals hitters who ripped Nationals pitching two games in a row for 20 runs and 2 clear cut dominating victories. This series has seen each team win in different ways. The Cardinals have won with brute force. A strong blunt force trauma crack to the head. The Nationals’ wins have been of the late inning heart breaking variety. A comeback 2-1 win in Game 1 and the walk off bomb tonight. The Phillies may be out of the playoffs, but two of their former players are making waves. Raul Ibanez hit two home runs last night while pinch hitting for the highest paid player in the league in A-Rod. He tied the game in the 9th and won it in the 12th against the stunned Orioles. Werth, given a huge contract last year and choking big time before becoming a leadoff hitter in 2012, cranked the game winner tonight. After the game, Werth said he was inspired by Ibanez. Two Ex-Phillies casted off by their former suppliers of brotherly love, coming up big with different jerseys on. That’s baseball. As I write this, Baltimore’s resurgent Nate McLouth just hit a solo home run to put the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the 5th inning against New York. Talk about a guy left for dead. McLouth came to the reborn Baltimore crew as a lost hitter. A man who boomed with the Pirates, sank after a trade with the Braves and got his life back with Balty. That’s baseball.
A thrilling postseason of comebacks concludes tomorrow night. The Cardinals, once ahead 2-1 with full control, are not stuck in the political epicenter of the country fighting for their future. It wouldn’t be completely blood gushing to lose tomorrow. A month ago, we were barely hanging onto a playoff spot after a season full of inconsistency and big injuries. We barely made it into the playoffs. We beat the Braves and got ahead of the Nationals, only to look them straight in the eye at this moment. Ask anyone on that team and they will preach the Matheny gospel. “These guys know how to win. They’re a great group of players who fight every night. I’m proud of them. It’s something…” Alright, Mike, I got it. Do me a favor. Win tomorrow night and hit that podium with that John Wayne drawl and tell us the story again. I can tell you I would be happy if it ended tomorrow. I can also tell you I might want to damage a printer with a baseball bat at the same time. That’s baseball for you. Baseball starts in the spring when everything is coming to life. It prospers as the temperature rises and everything comes into full plume. In the late stages of the fall, right at the onset of the winter, it dies. Only one team survives.
If you take away one thing from today, it’s the painful fact that the Cardinals are consistent at being an inconsistent baseball team. Yes it makes sense. They never make it easy and their fans bleed as a result of it and reach for extra medicine. Torment is our name. The same goes for any team in the majors expected to win every season. The Cardinals will disappoint unless they win the World Series. That’s life as a Cardinals fan. Cubs, Pirates, Padres, Toronto and Seattle fans hope for competitive baseball and a .500 record. The Cardinals are expected to win. Tomorrow, the season is on the line. Like any game in life, the march of this team will go on no matter what happens tomorrow. No team ever stops. Offseason comes on, deals happen and training for the next season begins. However, the 162 game season yields a playoff round. A party for the best teams. Teams compete for titles and hope to make it to the big series. What happens to the Cardinals? They get kicked out of a party or take it over. Tomorrow’s party is at 730pm. Prime time. Adam Wainwright against Gio Gonzalez. Are the Cardinals going home or not?
Random thoughts from today’s game-I started a game blog on WordPress today at game time, but stopped because I was having too much fun participating in the Cardinals Nerve Center text battle with a few good friends. Here are some excerpts.
*Commercials comment #1-The TBS TV spots are far better than Fox Sports Midwest, whose commercials take the place of a brain numbing pill after you watch around 75 games on their network. TBS pours similar if slightly more varied commercials that don’t annoy you so fast the last channel button is the most touched piece of equipment on the day. HP umpire Joyce calls his strike with an emphatic Frank Drebin like scream. He likes his strikes so I get the feeling the zone will be huge today. Cough drops may be required later on in the game.
*Commercial comment #2-Bruce Springsteen’s playoff song for TBS is called “In the land of hope and dreams” and after downloading and listening to it in it’s entirety, I can tell you the song is a powerful tribute to the American dream, their fallen saxophonist Clarence Clemons III, and a good tune for baseball. You need to give it a listen so you can hear more than Springsteen say about 30 times a game, “This trainnnn….”. I am not a big fan of Bruce Springsteen’s The E Street Band because their songs can overwhelm a set of ears. I prefer the gritty Bruce with a guitar in his hand firing off acoustic heartbreakers. Here, the song works. Then again, if the Cardinals advance, I will be glad because if I hear it too many times, I may revert to hatred instead of my current stand of praise.
Non Sports Comment-Unemployment sucks because you have to go into the offices every four weeks and meet with a person who is supposed to help you find a job. You go into the office, check it on a computer and you can end up waiting a long time for a 5 minute meeting with the person. They ask you how your search is going. You tell them you apply and hear little back. They hand you a sheet full of jobs that you have already applied for. All this in order to get benefits that I paid for myself when I was paying taxes on my paycheck. Bullshit. Just give me my money and leave me alone. I earned it.
Thanks for reading,