I believe in the Cardinal Way. While the Boston Strong moniker is wearing thin on me, this brand name sticks because it connects to the way the St. Louis Cardinals play baseball. At their best, the Cards grind out at bats, make the plays, get timely hits and present young guns on the mound to make the other team squirm or look like old haggard sluggers. On more than one occasion, Boston right fielder Shane Victorino stared out into space after striking out against Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez. Dustin Pedroia went to a knee reaching for a Martinez delivery. Johnny Gomes looked as useless as a plant in the winter time at the plate against Trevor Rosenthal. Throughout their two years under Mike Matheny and the final portion of the Tony La Russa managerial streak, the Cards have been a team that strings the little hits together, doesn’t quit until the end and makes every effort count. We are either universally loved or hated for never putting these attributes to rest. As I said in the NLCS, the Cards play like they all grew up together and became a team and weren’t merely assembled to win. Here is what happened Thursday night for the Cards to win 4-2 and pull the World Series even at 2 games.
*Michael Wacha pitched very well without his best stuff. The Red Sox stuck to their sickening trend and made the young hurler work for his outs, but Wacha didn’t break. Sure, David Ortiz hit a changeup above the green monster for a brief Boston lead, but that was all the Sox could score off the kid. Wacha shut down another offense for 6 solid innings. He is 4-0 this postseason. I have a feeling he will adjust more to the Red Sox than they will to him for the next game.
*Carlos Beltran, fresh off a shot of painkillers to his bruised ribs, collected 2 key hits and knocked in a huge insurance run in the 7th inning where the Cards netted their lead taking charge to reclaim the game. Beltran is a smooth easy going presence that could make walking across a tight rope look easy. He has saved this team many times this postseason with different methods. Deemed a slowing down player in September, Beltran slammed a 3 run bomb to open the playoffs at home against Pittsburgh. He put on a one man show in the first game against the Dodgers, throwing out the winning run at home plate before knocking in the eventual game winner. He saved a potentially back breaking embarrassing grand slam in Game 1 against the Red Sox on Wednesday night. Under the shadows of playoff glory, Beltran is working his October magic. I am glad it’s on our end and not like in 2004-2005 when he helped make our life a living hell while playing for Houston. He is a Cardinal now and it will be hard to let him go after this season.
*Matt Holliday is quietly putting together a big postseason. He isn’t collecting a ton of hits but he has made them count. He hit a solo HR in game 1 and tripled and scored the first run last night. In the first series’, he seemed to collect that HUGE HR and get the hits when needed. It would be amazing if this long ridiculed left fielder won the World Series MVP. That would shut all the haters up. For all the errors on the infield and NLCS hijinks in the outfield, Holliday has played a solid outfield for the Cards. He handled the green monster in Games 1 and 2. He doesn’t make many flashy plays but he makes the routine ones and has a better arm than either of his center fielders. Holliday is a secret weapon.
*The Young Arms reveal themselves to the Red Sox hitters. Carlos Martinez, after being used here and there for most of the season, has broken out during the past month. Once again, Matheny was keeping a hot sports car in the garage as long as he could until he had to use it. Down the stretch run to the division title and through the playoffs, Baby Carlos is proving to be the late inning setup man to Rosenthal with his eye popping fastball and wicked breaking pitch and nearly folked Victorino up last night. He threw a crucial 2 inning last night to form the bridge to Rosenthal’s shutdown 9th inning and is starting to lose the baby tags. He is a mult-tool threat for the future that could contribute in the bullpen and rotation. One of many. Nice to see Rosenthal climb the rubber at Fenway and blow 11 fastballs past the Red Sox and silent their postseason momentum and that stuffed crowd of raucous beantown fanatics. If we win this series, it will be on the heels of our great young pitching.
*Our defense stayed strong. In a ballpark known for sending opposing players into fits, the Cards made the plays last night. The highlight of the night was Pete Kozma redeeming himself with a misdirection grounder field and throw in the 7th inning that reminded people why he started so many games this summer for the Redbirds. Kozma is a plus defender with a great arm and helped the defense hold the fort yesterday.
Instead of being down 2-0 and looking fatally wounded, the Cards come home with a 1-1 series and 3 games at Busch. Sure, Allen Craig will probably be on the bench, but then again Boston will lose either David Ortiz or Mike Napoli. Each team will lose an offensive bullet so its even. The series will be defined by how little mistakes are made and how great the relief pitching can be. So far, it’s tied and looks like a 7 game series. At the moment, the momentum belongs to the Cards.
Thanks for staying,
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