As my blogging cohort, Daniel Shoptaw, said this morning, the Cardinals never make anything easy. They’d rather back into the playoffs than cruise through the front door. They like to send us sleepless into many summer nights or walking up the street mumbling to ourselves as we put our dogs through intensive walks.
The Cards are magicians at madness and have been for decades. They enter the season as favorites and finish it as underdogs. Remember 2006? We backed into the playoffs thanks to a John Smoltz gem against the Astros. We weren’t expected to beat the San Diego Padres and the “experts” picked the Mets to sweep us. The Cards had other plans. The Tigers were the young menacing powerhouse, but Anthony Reyes set the tone for the series when he threw one of his two Cardinal gems in Game 1 in Detroit. Adam Wainwright threw the slider to Brandon Inge and that was all. Jeff Weaver was never as good as that particular wild October. Scott Spezio was also very good before getting lost in translation. No one wanted the Cards to win it in 2006.
2011 was the same way. The Cards sprinted into the postseason at the last minute via a Braves collapse and were expected to be cleaned off by the Phillies. Instead, Carpenter beat Doc Halladay in his own house and that was it. The Brewers’ beast mode deflated quick and David Freese started his legendary five home run postseason with a few big hits against Milwaukee. The Brewers haven’t been the same since Nyjer Morgan‘s mouth grew wider than the team’s competitive level. The Cards weren’t supposed to beat Ron Washington‘s Rangers, especially after the Giants had ruined their party a year before. There were two outs and two strikes in two separate moments in Game 6, but the Cards pushed back and won it all.
My message is simple, folks. Avoid predictions when the postseason starts. When the Yankees dynasty was broken many years ago and the unpredictable flavor took over baseball, the game became fun again. The Marlins weren’t supposed to beat the Yankees in 2003. The Red Sox weren’t supposed to win anything but came back in 2004. The White Sox were laughable and suddenly won a World Series.
Joaquin Andujar said it best back in the day. “You Never Know”.
All I have heard since the Cards clinched yesterday afternoon is how easy it will be for the Dodgers to vanquish the Cardinals. MLB Network is salivating at the idea of the Dodgers and Angels creating a West Coast war in the World Series that they do their best to eliminate all other possibilities. I have a feeling the Cards will wreck that plan.
Call me crazy but I don’t see the Cardinals going easy in this series. The stats tell a different story.
The Dodgers rank near the top of the league in total offense. The Cards are near the bottom or middle of the pack in most offensive categories. It’s not David versus Goliath but it’s close. The Cards did lead the league in saves with 55 and allowed less home runs than the Dodgers as a pitching staff. Each pitching staff allowed a .242 average to opposing hitters while the WHIPs were in the 1.22 range. The stats favor the Dodgers but there is more to it.
The Dodgers are excellent on the road and The Cardinals are not. Each team is very good at home. The Dodgers ended the year on an 8-2 streak and won their last 5. The Cards split their final 6 games. Impressions only take a viewer so far.
Here’s what matters. The regular seasons stats no longer mattered. The postseason erases everything. Last year, the Cards kicked the Dodgers out of the playoffs in six games. Clayton Kershaw lost to Michael Wacha twice in the National League Championship series. Guess what? All the games were close. 4 of the six games were decided by 2 runs or less. The Cards scored 9 runs in Game 6 and the Dodgers scored 6 runs in Game 5. Other than that, it was tight.
How did the Cards fare in one run games in 2014? The Cards were 32-23 in one run games. The Dodgers were 25-20. The Cards were 7-6 in extra innings. The Dodgers were 6-12. They also led the league with 23 shutouts. When it comes to tight games, the Cards were very good in 2014. Keep that in mind.
This is only the beginning of playoff coverage from around the net. Consider this a tip off from the South City end of St. Louis that the local team is never doomed, at least according to history. Remember 2009, we zoomed into the playoffs and got ousted by the Dodgers in the first round. You never know. Expectations are a fickle thing when set next to reality. The postseason has begun. All bets are off. Tear up the gamblers tickets. Tune into some great baseball.
Friday night, Adam Wainwright opposes Clayton Kershaw. The Cards have already beat Kershaw this year. He may be a Cy Young champion but the Cards seem to be preventing him from becoming a World Series champion. At least until now.
It will be a tough series. That is for sure. Just remember how unpredictable this game can be before you write off the Birds on the Bat.
The emotion of this game causes many fans to forget that only the Yankees have more postseasons wins since 2000 than the Cardinals’ 66. I remember seeing a lot of Cards fans write off the team in August. Those same people will do so now because it’s easier on their nerves. I’ll hold my serve and wait it out. Go game to game. See which team shows up to play or not. The Cards haven’t hit all year but that’s in the past. Their pitching can match up with the Dodgers. Their bullpen can as well. In my mind, the lineups will determine the series. Who hits more?
Only time will tell. Flip that 2011 DVD in anytime a refresh is needed. Let the Red October Begin. Check back for more playoff analysis as the week unfolds.
Thanks for reading,