As much as I’ve enjoyed this team and this season, I’m not sure I was really expecting this to happen. The Cardinals are the class of the NL and are just four wins away from a World Championship. You’ve read the stories by now, but we’ll rehash it a bit anyway.
I spent this weekend mingling with my fellow Class of ’93 alums, but even as we took in the high school football game Friday night, I was glued to my phone, waiting and watching to see what the Cards would do against Clayton Kershaw. Many of you know that is how I’ve spent much of this postseason as well, either because of necessity due to early start times or the fact that, for some reason, I find that less stressful than watching the actual broadcast.
So I watched Matt Carpenter come up for his second at-bat and saw the red balls fill up GameDay’s strike zone. A foul ball. Another foul ball. Yet another foul ball. To see him double on the eleventh pitch of the at bat started to make you think something good was going to happen. However, nobody on earth could have imagined how good.
We’ve talked much about series pivoting this postseason. How three wins in a row isn’t a big deal when you think about it, even if you are behind 3-1. How things can go sideways in a hurry. That Carpenter at bat proved that games can do the same thing. The game shifted from a taut pitchers duel to a rout in the space of less than 50 pitches.
Once Carlos Beltran had singled in Carpenter, I believed that the Cardinals would probably win the way Michael Wacha and the bullpen had been going. When the score reached 2-0, I was even more confident. At 4-0, it was turn out the lights, because this party is over. The five runs that came two innings later was just icing on the cake.
So Beltran gets into his first World Series and the Cards can keep trying to win one in honor of Stan Musial. They don’t have to face the extremely good starting pitching of Detroit (though after beating Kershaw twice and Zack Greinke once, there may not have been much intimidation factor there) but they also don’t get to hit against a weak Detroit bullpen, which is the major reason Boston continued into the Series.
The Cards will also get a boost going into the Series as Allen Craig is returning to the active roster. Craig will DH in the American League games and probably be a big pinch-hitter in Busch Stadium. While we should temper our optimism on how well Craig will hit after a month and a half off and still feeling the lingering effects of his injury, having him really helps the club. For once, a National League team can go into an interleague series with a true DH-type in their lineup, not just their best bench guy.
You know things are looking up when even Joe Strauss seems to be on the bandwagon. Things are almost so good that you start wondering what’s coming down eventually to spoil these good feelings. Boston is a very good team, though, and could ruin these good times pretty quickly.
We know Adam Wainwright is going in Game 1, which is the only logical move. He’s the ace, he’s been there, he can handle the pressure of starting a series in hostile territory. We saw how the moment caught up to Joe Kelly and that was at home. Not everyone is ready to take the ball first time out, but there’s no doubt The Wagonmaker is.
The question becomes Game 2 and Game 3. Obviously Michael Wacha would be ready for Game 2, but if you throw him there, you have him come back in Game 6. Game 6 could be a huge game, could be an elimination game for the Cardinals if it’s being played, but you don’t know what that situation would be. Game 7, you know, it’s winner-take-all. Game 3’s starter will be in line to start Game 7. Wouldn’t it make more sense for that to be Wacha’s role? Even though it could come down to it, I’m not as confident with Kelly in the deciding game on the road, especially in a place like Boston.
True, Kelly in Game 2 would put him in line for Game 6 in Boston with what might be the Series on the line, so maybe you want Wacha there. On the flip side, if the Cards are up 3-2, using Wacha there would be a chance to finish off the Series without needing a Game 7. The starter for Game 7 might be moot anyway because the first sign of trouble, the bullpen will be going and everyone–even Wainwright–would likely be available.
My initial feeling was to save Wacha for Game 3, but perhaps Game 2 is the best spot for him. Besides, if the Cards could win both of those games, perhaps they could put the Sox away at Busch and celebrate at home.
It’s going to be a tough series, there’s no doubt about it. The teams are fairly even in their matchup. St. Louis might have the edge in the rotation, Boston may have the edge in the offense. A friend of mine (who has no significant rooting interest in either team) told me he’d seen a lot of Boston this year and he’s never seen a team grind out at bats like they do. The Cardinals do a lot of that as well, though maybe not to the extent that Boston does. St. Louis’s rotation may also generate more swings and misses than other teams do given the heat that they bring along with the secondary pitches. That’s an if, though. Boston is going to make the pitchers work.
If you want to read about this Series from the Boston perspective, here are a few blogs to check out. You can find many of these writers on Twitter as well, if that’s something you are inclined toward. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the matchup and the five keys to winning it all!