It doesn’t matter how great a baseball team is doing. It’s never easy to watch them work for six months and 162+ games. Sweet, bitter or raw play hand in hand with fans. Day games turn into nightmares and night games turn into morning tears. Especially when the summer turns over to the fall.
Just look at the St. Louis Cardinals, the requisite rogue in red who control the blood pressure and day to day moods of fans the city. They play with our feelings, crushing them on certain nights and enlightening them on others.
Take Wednesday for example. The Chicago Cubs are in town and looking to sweep. After unloading on the best pitching in baseball two straight nights, they set their sights on the young fiery Carlos Martinez, El Gallo to his dearest fans. Power versus power. With Anthony Rizzo licking his chops and The Small Bears from the North looking to cut the edge to 5.5 games, could Martinez and company stop them?
A locked in Jon Lester didn’t help. A different high paid ace than the one STL faced on opening night. The Birds bent him early for a run scoring hit from Jason Heyward but couldn’t break through for seven innings. Lester doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he’s smart and tactical with his breaking pitches so the bats couldn’t figure him out. However Lester threw 105 pitches and couldn’t go further. That’s the price of the Cards taking good at bats and wearing him down. They didn’t score more than a run but they kept him from finishing. The Cubs bullpen was bound to get involved.
They are like the friend in the wolf pack who you really don’t need in a brawl. They are unpredictable and erratic. Over the years, facing the Cubs is a matter of getting to their bullpen. Pedro Strop, owner of the glossy fist pump from Tuesday’s game, entered. He failed. Fernando Rodney, Seattle refugee and Big Papi and Dustin Hermanson facial hair wannabe, entered. He checked on Matt Carpenter at first base. Cardinals fans knew, sooner or later, he had to throw a pitch to Stephen Piscotty, a man who could do your kids advanced algebra homework and also collect hits like water bottles at a Salvation Army barbecue.
Rodney fired and Piscotty didn’t miss it. He lined a shot to right field that eluded the center fielder and hopped off the war back towards the field. It was the 21st extra base hit for the Stanford product in just 167 at bats. If Randal Grichuk was the thrilling roller coaster ride The Boss at Six Flags, Piscotty was the Screaming Eagle, a more old school but still electric experience. The latest in a chorus line of singing Birds for a league best team that tries its best to give off an impersonation of a not so good team for stretches at a time.
However, as my dad said yesterday right after Piscotty’s hit about treating the Cubs and their fans to optimism, “We gave you a taste but that’s enough.” He was right. After 25 and a half innings of looking feeble and beatable, the Real Cardinals had to stand up. As a bloody mouthed famous gunslinger once cinematically said, “my hypocrisy only goes so far.”
Upon reaching second base, Piscotty unleashed a fist bump that nearly caused him to topple over. The usually stoic rookie couldn’t resist anymore. He was “feeling it” as Ricky Bobby once said. Matt Carpenter walked on water as he crossed home plate representing the go ahead fourth run. After being five outs from a sweep, the Cards suddenly led 4-3. They had endured and broke through. Something they’ve done all season. What they’ve done since 2011. Every season. They always find a way.
Take away three starters from their lineup and a pair of rotation arms. Take away a couple bullpen arms. As fictional Banshee county sheriff Lucas Hood would improbably pronounce after surviving a near death gun battle, the Cards “have it handled”. Why are fans constantly surprised as September action unfolds with this team’s ability to come back and endure?
Reinforcements are on the way. Lumbering big stick Matt Adams is almost ready to contribute. Grichuk is unable to throw but still has the tenacity to destroy poorly placed fastballs 451 feet away. Matt Holliday, owner of the angriest swing since Gary Sheffield was in his prime, is close to reading his name on a lineup card. An already strong team will only get stronger.
Sure, Jon Jay will play too much even though he seems to be swinging a folded up newspaper at the plate. Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos are glorified gloves but sure can run. Tommy Pham isn’t on the missing persons list yet but simply isn’t trust worthy enough to play center field more than once a week. Jhonny Peralta has been a ghost since the end of July but is bound to break out.
Trevor Rosenthal has 43 saves and looks like a man possessed. Kevin Siegrist is tired yet efficient. Steve Cishek and Jonathan Broxton haven’t been as bad as fan forums and Twitter make them out to be. Randy Choate will most likely make another appearance without recording an out but that’s simply a cut thread from the LOOGY Blues.
The Jason Heyward watch won’t quit but don’t lose sleep over it. I am really impressed with the 25 year old player but every smart baseball fan knows one player doesn’t make a team win. It’s a group effort. Whether he stays or he goes(I really hope he stays), the Cards will be fine. Don’t worry about it now. There are men in suits with bow ties who deal with that and they hold the keys to something only we as a fanbase or media outlet can react to.
Here’s something to remember and it’s simple and probable. The Cards will get beat by teams at times this month but they will also win far more games than they lose. Some losses will be ugly but a great win has the ability to erase three nasty losses. There’s no way to explain it. That’s baseball.
Throughout it all, I will continue to preach one thing. Endure. Just wait. These regular season games are important but only until the playoffs start. Then, the records are essentially 0-0 and the real hunt begins. The 11 win hunt for the ultimate prize. The World Series trophy.
Until then, enjoy the action. Bleed with the team but remember anything can happen. As the late great Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar constantly said, “You never know”.
If it’s one thing you can bet on with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, it’s that they will bounce back from any bad break. They are the Rocky Balboa of baseball. They take the hits and keep on coming.