“What are you going to do?”
“Yes. That’s my way of getting past it.”
This is the conversation I had with my wife a few minutes ago. It’s not her fault that she thinks my obsession with a game has its limits. There are bigger things to live and die over than baseball. There’s cancer. Poverty. Jobless dads. People who lose their parents before they are 10. Drunk driver victims. Therapy. Look, I don’t pretend to put my obsession over Cardinals baseball over anyone’s struggles, but this game and team runs through my veins with the blood. They don’t leave my subconscious. Paid sports writers calls us the smartest people in the room sitting on the couch. I don’t see much of a difference between myself and Joe Strauss. He went through journalism school, I think, and gets paid to write the beat. I get paid nothing to say what I want. Choose your poison. We both have the right to voice our opinions. There’s people on facebook and in the general public who call the obsession over a game where the players don’t give a shit about the fans who watch them “a childish act”. I disagree. We all choose the things that we love and are passionate about. Sometimes its the same thing as your profession. Sometimes it’s something you do in the dead of night while the house is quiet and the soundtrack is turned down low. Right now I am listening to a cover of Tom Petty’s classic solo, “I Won’t Back Down”, a song that applies so fittingly to my situation. I came onto this cover after watching an episode of the only network show I watch, Grey’s Anatomy. Love or hate the show. It is the best hospital drama on television since ER entered the season after half its regular’s left. On Grey’s, doctors actually die and don’t get written off to do other things. Creator Shonda Rhimes isn’t afraid to kill off fan favorites. She killed off two in last season’s finale. The cover played over the final scenes as the surviving doctors of a horrible plane crash had to decide whether to take a settlement from the company behind the makers of the plane or fight the case in court for a preexisting problem with the plane. In closing, Patrick Dempsey tells the lawyers and his fellow survivors that its easy to just take the money but its right to take the case to court so no more people are lost. He compares it to doctors losing patients in a procedure and going back to the books and rules to see where it went wrong, so it doesn’t happen again. It’s a powerful scene, well timed and perfected by durable actors. A mix of song and potency rarely achieved on network television. I am off point, but let me make myself clear. I am die hard Cardinals fan, and need to explain these tough tough losses in order to get on with the next day. It’s a part of me, like smoking is to a person who can’t quit. I have always said losses deserve a blog while wins are optional to discuss afterwards. It took me two days to write about last Friday’s tremendous comeback win. Tonight’s nasty loss only took 75 minutes. Here we go. Strap in or get out. I am doing this for me but it’s your choice to observe and respond.
Here are the reasons we lost this game. Follow along.
*Lance Lynn pitched like shit. He struck out 5 in the first three innings, but when the order came around a second time, he faltered fast and couldn’t finish the 4th inning. In a big game on a huge stage, Lynn failed. When he took over for Garcia, there was a little hope that the 18 game winner would continue his September form. Instead, he is back in his June drought. This could be a painful sign for the years to come. Is Lynn a starter or reliever? He was so effective in the NLDS as a reliever, give or take the Werth walkoff. Lynn can’t seem to put things behind him during an inning and is becoming known as the white Jaime Garcia. The hickory version of mental instability on the mound. He made a crucial mistake when he fielded a Hunter Pence groundball and instead of firing to first base for the SURE out, he turned and fired a horrible off balance toss to second base where nobody existed. The ball skipped into center field and the inning went down the drain. Brandon Crawford singled in two runs and Barry Zito bunted for an RBI hit. Inside 5 minutes, it went from 0-0 to 4-0 Giants. That’s how fast a starter can go from nimble tightrope walker to failed artist. Lynn let the error undue his entire night. He could have buckled down and gotten the next hitter, yet walked him to bring Crawford up. Lynn is making the decision for the 2013 rotation a bigger question. Right now, it’s Waino, Carp, Westbrook, Garcia(if he starts the season) and a fifth spot that is open. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, and Shelby Miller will push Lynn for that spot. Kelly has been stellar in relief and pitched well down the stretch before Garcia came back and Lynn was reinserted. Miller is your future. Rosenthal may be better suited for that lights out 7th inning role if Edward Mujica departs. Lance Lynn is pitching himself out of the 2013 rotation. In a game that meant everything, he failed. He can’t get another start in this postseason. If the Cardinals advance, he must be in the bullpen.
*The bats were impatient from the start. Putting runners on base against Zito yet allowing him to wiggle free by swinging at junk early and often. Zito got into huge trouble early on. Lynn didn’t help himself by grounding into an inning ending double play in the 3rd inning. With the bases loaded, Lynn swung at a 0-1 pitch and ended a big threat. The Cardinals had 2nd and 3rd occupied with zero outs and didn’t score. Matheny shouldn’t have let Lynn swing the bat. He walks or strikes out or watches a wild pitch go past. At worst, Jon Jay gets a shot with the bases loaded. Right there, I knew there was danger. Lynn hurt himself with the ball and the bat.
*The bats remained impatient after the 4-0 deficit. Jumping at pitches out of the zone. Swinging on hitters counts. They were down 4-0 and they lost their patience and intelligence at the plate. The big reason we tied the Nationals and took the lead in the 9th a week ago was having patience with Drew Storen. Molina and Freese worked walks before Descalso and Kozma saved the day. Tonight, we done 4-0 with 18 outs left and swung too freely. You do that and play right into Zito’s hands. Barry pitched the game of his life and no longer refers to himself as a complete fuckup. Along with sending the series back to San Francisco, we revitalized an overpaid lefthander’s career. Nicely done bastards.
*The series isn’t doomed. I know this much. I also know winning it tonight was the best option. We wasted a huge opportunity tonight to seal the deal. Now we go back to the west coast, to the loud as a frat house AT&T Park where nobody can hear anything and where potential doom awaits. The Cards will get a rematch with Game 2 sensation Ryan Vogelsong, the kid who played for 6 different teams before finding his sweet spot with the Giants. He outdueled our veteran captain Chris Carpenter in the same ballpark on Monday. What happens tonight? Does Carpenter regroup, toughen up and return to the body of the legend who carries a 10-3 record in the playoffs? Does Vogelsong sting the Cards again and send it to a do or die Game 7 between Kyle Lohse and Matt Cain? I only have one bit of unfortunate news. Trevor Rosenthal can’t start Game 6.
*The kid looked great tonight in 2 innings of work. He struck out 5 and constantly hit 100 mph and mixed in a devastating 81 mph curveball. Rosenthal can be a special player for this team. A starter. Strikeout master in the pen. Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte’s biggest asset. I’m glad he is on our side. Another brilliant night from the bullpen. After Lynn allows 4(yes, all earned in my book, especially if HE MADE THE ERROR HIMSELF), the bullpen allows only 1 run over 5.2 innings. Kelly, Rosenthal, Boggs and Mujica. Outstanding work from the bullpen all series.
*What offense shows up for the Cardinals in Game 6? The lineup that bruised Madison Baumgarner in Game 1, got the best of Matt Cain in Game 3, beat up Tim Lincecum in Game 4 or the paltry overzealous bats that fell prey to Vogelsong and Zito? Who knows? We have around 44 hours to wait and find out.
*One of the biggest bad calls tonight came from Mike Matheny. When Lynn was in trouble after the error, Matheny had to make the move. In a must win game, Matheny let Lynn burn the house down. He saw it unfold in Game 1 and almost lost that game. Matheny saw Lynn make a crucial error. Everybody in the state of mind knew Lynn was heading towards a meltdown after that throw. Everyone except our manager. You let a pitcher grow in the regular season. Find himself in May or June. In October, you make the tough decisions. The right ones. In the heat of the moment, Matheny failed and it may have cost his team the game. He inserts Kelly earlier and you never know what happens. Losing isn’t as painful as it looks. It’s when you know why it’s 4-0 and not 0-0 or 1-0 that is the painful part. After that error, everybody in town knew Lynn would fold. Why didn’t Matheny make the move? It didn’t stand alone as the reason we lost but it sure did fuel the fire.
*I don’t want to say this but I will. The Giants came back from being down 2-0 in the NLDS against the Reds. They won three straight on the road to shock the Reds in a ballpark where Cincinnati had dominated the entire season. Now SF have two games to complete another comeback and shock the world again. I didn’t want it this way.
*The series isn’t over for the Cards. They are still ahead 3-2. They still are closer to victory than the Giants. Will they fumble the opportunity or finish off the Giants in six like they did the Brewers in 2011? It isn’t time to panic. It is time to worry.
*I’ve always imagined the greatest punishment for a fan is to lock him in a cell with no phones, computers, loved ones and let him go over it and over it in his mind until he cracks and has a nervous breakdown. It’s a good thing I get the luxury of sneaking into my 13 month old son’s room with my wife to steal a peek at him while he calmly sleeps the night away. One day he will tell me it’s just a game. A simple game played by millionaires. I will attempt to not change his mind yet only reveal my own thoughts so my mind is allowed to relax. We will discuss it for a long time. One day he will get it. I hope. For now, he is my instant relaxer after tough losses. A sweet wife also helps. Without them, I’m pacing in the backyard talking to myself like Rain Man. This is my life. For at least 3 more days.
Goodnight and Good Luck,
Dan L. Buffa