A Win Nine Years In The Making

The Cardinals are coming home to Busch tied with the Red Sox.  And there was much rejoicing.

Perhaps the lingering issues with the 2004 World Series are finally broken.  St. Louis played a solid game last night, a game that would have been devastating to lose had the David Ortiz home run held up.  That’s not how we would have liked to seen Michael Wacha‘s night wrap up.

However, this is a team.  A team that looks out for each other.  So after a postseason where Wacha had been there for his teammates, they were there for him last night.  Patience and aggression blended into a seventh inning that saw the Cardinals take a 4-2 lead.

A two run lead late in the game?  When you are watching it, it sometimes seems like that is a 10 run gap.  The young guys coming out of the bullpen are just that good.  It was another all-rookie affair, something that might have been notable at one time but now is just another day at the office.

After the Game 1 loss in 2004, everything seemed to conspire against the Redbirds.  They were down before the end of the first in every game.  While Boston didn’t put up huge numbers, it didn’t matter because St. Louis couldn’t score.  It’s a Series that was over and done before people could blink.

It could have been the same last night.  Sure, the Cardinals got their first postseason lead on the Red Sox since 1967.  That was a good start, but it seemed like the smallest of moral victories when Ortiz took Wacha out of the yard.  It was demoralizing–well, it was to this fan.  Apparently, not as much to the guys in the dugout.  Thankfully, they are the ones that matter.

How crazy is it that we’ve spent all this time talking about Boston’s speed and what they are going to do on the basepaths and the fact that the Cardinals (relatively) are slower than Christmas to see the game turn on a double steal by Pete Kozma and Jon Jay?  It’s moments like that when you wonder if you are leading a charmed life, if there’s some destiny out there for this team.  (Of course, destiny, like momentum, is tomorrow’s starting pitcher.)

To tie the game on the sacrifice fly from Matt Carpenter was big enough.  After all, with this bullpen, you like your chances tied up late.  However, to have Jay have the presence of mind to try to advance on the muff at home plate, forcing an error out of Craig Breslow, that’s absolutely incredible.  Carlos Beltran driving in that insurance run was just icing on the cake.

What was Beltran even doing in there?  The man goes 10 rounds with a wall and is back in the game the next night?  Not only that, but driving in runs and basically being Carlos Beltran?  We’ve said before how much Beltran wanted to get to the Series, which you saw in his leveled-up play at times this October.  Obviously that desire didn’t go away when he got there.  He wants that ring and he’ll do what it takes to get there.

I said on Bonfyre last night that while my man-crush is still Adam Wainwright, Wacha is moving rapidly up the list.  What more can you say about this guy?  The only three runs he’s given up this postseason were on home runs.  That might be a cause for concern if it wasn’t spread out over four games.  Wacha has been incredible this October, so much so that you worry (when you have time to worry about things that aren’t the World Series) that expectations for him next year are going to be absurd.  It may not seem like it, but the kid is human.  Just glad that he avoided the loss last night because he pitched an outstanding game.  Facing Ortiz at any time is tough, but doing it after 100 pitches raises the difficulty level significantly.

So the Cardinals go back home tied up, a much better option than the alternative.  While I am concerned with what Boston can do against Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, there are some advantages for the Cards as well, the first being that Mike Napoli will be reduced to pinch-hitting (and, perhaps, that Ortiz is playing first base–his limited time there might come into play).

Kelly hasn’t seen the Red Sox and, interestingly, has actually been better away from Busch this season, though I don’t think Fenway Park would have been the best venue for him (if the Series goes seven, we may find out).  The key for Kelly is going to be getting ahead of the hitters (thank you, Captain Obvious) and limiting his hits to singles.  The hits are going to come, since he gives up about one an inning, but if they can be singles without walks in front of them, he can manage.  The bullpen will be big in this one as well, as you figure they could be in by as early as the fifth.  I think Shelby Miller might get a shot here and, if he does well, could be in line for Game 7.

Having to beat St. Louis in the playoffs will be a familiar task for Jake Peavy, who before this year hadn’t faced anyone else in post-season play.  However, before this year Peavy had never beaten the Cardinals either.

2005 NLDS Game 1: 4.1 IP, 8 ER
2006 NLDS Game 1: 5.1 IP, 5 ER

Of course, that was a different Cardinal team, but Peavy was a different pitcher back then as well, considered one of the top guys in the game and one of the main reasons San Diego had gotten to the playoffs.  Peavy was able to turn in a good performance against the Rays in this year’s ALDS, but was lit up by the Tigers last time out, giving up seven runs in three innings.

During his time in Boston, he won four games and put up an ERA just over 4.00.  His September was a bit worse, as his ERA for that month was up to 5.40.  In other words, he should be hittable.  Doesn’t mean he will be, as we all know, but the numbers are in favor of that.

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP
Matt Holliday 38 28 8 0 0 1 5 10 7 .286 .474 .393 .867 0 0 0 0
Carlos Beltran 25 20 8 3 1 1 6 4 4 .400 .480 .800 1.280 0 1 0 0
Yadier Molina 22 22 4 0 0 0 1 0 5 .182 .182 .182 .364 0 0 0 0
Daniel Descalso 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
David Freese 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0
Lance Lynn 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Shane Robinson 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000 .000 0 0 0 0
Total 97 82 21 3 1 2 12 14 21 .256 .361 .390 .751 0 1 0 0
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/25/2013.

Beltran has always enjoyed hitting off of him, which is a plus. Molina has struggled, but with that limited of exposure, it’s fair to say that a majority of the at-bats came before Molina’s bat had developed to what it is today.  The Cardinals did face Peavy last year, when he just allowed one run over seven innings when he was with the White Sox. However, as is his custom, he lost that one as well.

I don’t know that the Series has shifted to the Cardinals.  There are going to be a number of runs scored in Games 3 and 4 and we’ll have to hope St. Louis scores more of them than Boston does.  However, there’s a feel of optimism going into the off day. You can’t ask for much more than that!

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