Backs To The Wall and Firing Squad at the Ready

I think you could forgive Cardinal fans if they started exploring nihilism.  It seems like, no matter what they do this series, the Giants are going to wind up scoring crazy runs and win the ballgame.  This series is closer than the 3-1 deficit, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Would you like to spin the Wheel of Blame?  Because no matter where the arrow lands, it’s likely going to be an accurate target.

Matt Adams drove in the first run but let in the tying and go-ahead runs (plus, if he makes the plays, the sixth run never has a chance to score) with two miscues in a row in the sixth inning.  Plus, with a chance of redemption in the next frame, with two on and two out, he wound up striking out, ending the last real shot at coming back.

Shelby Miller, for all the excitement he generated down the stretch, now has a 4.82 ERA this postseason in two starts and hasn’t gotten out of the sixth in either one.  Last night, staked to both 1-0 and 4-1 leads, he let the Giants continue to reach, allowing eight baserunners in less than four innings.

Randal Grichuk was 0-4 with two strikeouts, leaving three men on base.  John Nagel made the point that at least he’s a power possibility, but you start to wonder how much that counts when the book is obviously out on him.  The home run in Game 3 was big, no doubt, so I don’t know.  I feel like having Peter Bourjos in center and Jon Jay in right would help enough to offset that–at least the first Giant run last night probably doesn’t score if Bourjos is out there, since Jay let the ball come out of his glove for a “double”.

Jhonny Peralta hit into double plays twice in his first two at-bats, ruining a good first inning rally and then driving in a run with his second DP, but since that was followed by a home run, it would have been nice to have someone on.

Marco Gonzales, after looking so sharp during his second stint in the big leagues, wound up allowing three runs last night.  Granted, the third run scored when Seth Maness allowed an RBI single to Buster Posey and the other two were on ground balls that should have been outs, so it wasn’t as bad as the linescore indicated, but it still was a tough outing and one that turned the game, unfortunately.

And if you are spinning the Wheel of Blame, half the spots on there point to Mike Matheny, so there’s a good chance you are going to wind up looking at him.  He stuck with Shelby Miller too long, letting the Giants get back into the game.  There was a lot of grief aimed at Matheny last night on Twitter, some of which was probably frustration at this Giants team directed toward the manager.

(The Wheel of Blame probably avoids Kolten Wong, who hit another home run, turned a nice double play, and doubled and scored another run.  If Peralta hit like he did this postseason, we’d probably already be talking about Kansas City.)

I mean, what can you do when a team has scored about half their runs this postseason via means other than a hit?  They did more of it last night, getting three RBI hits, but the other three came via sac fly and the two misplays by Adams.  I said when the Cards were up that I felt nervous with a three-run lead.  That had less to do with the Cardinal pitching as the fact that there’s some sort of magic with San Francisco in the playoffs, especially this one.

Yes, there’s still a chance to play baseball in St. Louis this year.  Yes, there’s a path to the World Series.  I mean, if you get past today, you get Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson in Busch, both pitchers that the Cardinals have hit this series.  You have to wonder if it matters, though.  The Redbirds could score 5 runs against either of them, but lose 6-5 when the Giants score on a balk.  That’s just the way this series has gone.  Eventually San Francisco will run out of magic, I think.  It just may be when they play that equally charmed Royals team in the Series.

St. Louis has never come back from a 3-1 deficit.  They’ve blown plenty of 3-1 deficits, including to this Giants team two years ago.  If you were writing this in a book or a script, the Cards would come storming back to provide a mirror image of what San Francisco did to them two years ago.  Unfortunately, we don’t get to script October.

There is a path, but there’s a huge boulder in the middle of it in the form of Madison Bumgarner.  The only starting pitcher to really take over a game in this series, Bumgarner allowed only four hits and struck out seven in his 7.1 innings in Game 1.  Can he be beaten?  Sure.  However, it’s a monumental task to expect that to happen in his home ballpark with a chance to clinch a trip to the Fall Classic in front of the home fans.

It would be more encouraging if we knew what we were going to get from Adam Wainwright.  Wainwright continues to say he feels better, that he’s made a mechanical adjustment, all the things that a pitcher has to say after being unlike his ace self for two straight postseason starts.  The problem is, Wainwright can’t take time to get the feel of things or hope to work out the kinks during the game.  One run could be the difference between a flight home to play baseball or a flight home to clean out your locker.  To win this, Wainwright has to be Wainwright from the opening pitch.  The Cards have had postseason magic before, but apparently the Giants have possessed it.  David Freese isn’t walking through that door.

All the cliches are true, you take it one game at a time, there’s always a chance, etc.  The Cardinals can win this tonight, but it’s going to take a team that, frankly, we’ve not seen just a ton of this season for them to dig out of this hole.  Win tonight and maybe there’s a bit more optimism, but that’s a big, big task.  Let’s hope they are up for it.

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