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Bad Defense, Bad Call and Bad Behavior: Braves Fall to Cardinals after Bad Infield Fly Call

Plop… the Infield Fly that Wasn’t (Getty Images-TBS Screencap)

“The best umpired game is the game in which the fans cannot recall the umpires who worked it.” Bill Klem

The Atlanta Braves lost to the St. Louis Cardinals by a score of 6-3 in the National League Wild Card “Play in Game.” It was a game marked by incredibly bad defense on the part of the Braves, an extremely bad “Infield Fly Rule” call by Left Field Line Umpire Sam Holbrook and a 19 minute trash throwing delay by fans that I never thought possible in Atlanta. I thought I that a bunch of Philadelphia Eagles or Flyers fans had been transported to Atlanta for the game.

Braves starter Kris Medlen took the loss giving up just three hits but 5 runs, only 2 of which were earned. The Braves, including legendary Third Baseman Chipper Jones committed 3 errors which contributed to the loss.

In a normal situation this wouldn’t sound like a controversial. However the Braves, trailing 6-3 with runners on first and second with one out Braves Shortstop Andrelton Simmons was called out on a shallow fly ball to left field which fell between Cardinals’ shortstop Pete Kozma and Left Fielder Matt Halliday. It looked like the Braves had the bases loaded with only the one out when Left Field Line Umpire Holbrook made a late call for a “Infield Fly Rule” which caused Simmons to be out. The Braves fans went crazy forcing the players off the field as cans and bottles were thrown with wild abandon.

Turner Field ground Crew picks up the trash in the 8th inning (US Presswire) 

After the delay the Cardinals brought in closer Jason Motte who was able to work his way out of the inning. Motte then put the Braves down in the 9th despite giving up a broken bat infield single to Chipper Jones in his last at career at-bat and a ground rule double to Freddy Freeman to get the save.

The infield fly rule is designed to protect the offense from a fielder that intentionally drops or misses a pop fly in order to get a double play. On the play it is to be called early enough for runners to be able to have the opportunity to advance at their own risk. Likewise the fielder must be reasonably be in a position to make the play without undue effort. That certainly was nit the case. The call came as the ball was almost on the ground when the call was made and it certainly was not in any sense of the word a routine pop fly.  The MLB Rule Book reads:

An infield fly is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule.

When it seems apparent that a batted ball will be an Infield Fly, the umpire shall immediately declare Infield Fly for the benefit of the runners.

Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez put the game under protest but his protest was denied.

With the win the Cardinals move on to face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS on Sunday. The Braves and their future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones are now done for the season.

Tough Night for Chipper (Kevin C Cox Getty Images)

The game was not decided on the bad call alone. Jones committed a key error on a double play ball that allowed the Cardinals to rally and take the lead. Likewise the Braves managed to load the bases in the bottom of the 8th after the call but could not plate a runner, nor did they score in the 9th. The Braves had 12 hits to the Cardinals 6 and left 12 men on base. Teams do not commit that many errors or leave that many men on base without paying for it.

The behavior of the Braves fans was something that I never expected out of them. The reaction to the call was shameful and I think unfitting to honor Chipper Jones.

Appropriate credit has to be given to the Cardinals under rookie Manager Mike Matheny who despite the retirement of Manager Tony LaRussa and the loss of Albert Pujols to free agency fought hard to gain the final National League Wild Card berth.

I am a fan of having the Wild Card playoff but I wonder if a one and out format is the best. Maybe a three game series is better.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Orioles Win Wild One in 17 at Fenway: Sweep Sox

Orioles First Baseman Chris Davis being congratulated by Catcher Matt Wieters after getting the win in relief against the Red Sox. (AP Photo) 

Buck Showalter’s tenacious Baltimore Orioles moved into first place in the American League East today when Orioles completed a sweep of Bobby Valentine’s reeling Boston Red Sox. The Orioles won 9-6 today in a 17 inning marathon that lasted 6 hours 17 minutes. The teams combined to use 18 pitchers who threw a combined 568 pitches.  It was the second extra inning game of the series as the Orioles defeated the Sox 6-4 in a 13 inning game on Friday night and pummeled the Sox 8-2 on Saturday afternoon.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy hit two home runs while Robert Andino also went yard for the second time in the series. Hardy was 5-8 with two homers and a double. Adam Jones hit the game winning home run in the 17th against Darnell McDonald, the Sox Left Fielder who had been called into the game in relief. Red Sox 3rd Baseman Will Middlebrooks hit a Grand Slam home run in the bottom of the 5th inning.

The most remarkable thing about this game was Orioles Designated Hitter Chris Davis who was 0-8 at bat getting the win in relief. Davis who had last pitched in a community college game after having pitched in high schoolserved up two scoreless innings of relief to get the win. He had two strike outs a walk and gave up two hits but got the win.

Darnell McDonald, the Outfielder called to pitch for the Sox in the 17th did not fare as well giving up 3 runs on 2 hits while walking two batters. Boston starter Clay Buchholz gave up 5 runs on 7 hits with 4 walks in just 3.2 innings of work.

It was the fist time since 1968 that a position player won a game in relief in the American League although Phillies Infielder Wilson Valdez got a win in a 19 inning game on May 25th 2011 against the Cincinnati Reds. The game was also the first game where both teams used position players to close the game in relief since 1925. Then it was Hall of Famers Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers and George Sisler of the St Louis Browns did it in the second game of a double header on October 4th 1925.

The Orioles are now 19-9 and 10 games over 500 since June 25th 2005. They are 11-5 on road and 10-5 vs AL East. There are still a lot of games left in the season and many including many O’s faithful don’t believe in the team. I think that they are a far better team, a deeper than than a lot of people give them credit to be. I think that they will break .500 this year if not do even better. With the Red Sox in disarray and the O’s playing the rest of the AL East tough I think that the Orioles will have a very respectable season.  Their pitching staff, especially the bullpen is doing well and young players blooded by the brutal AL East are beginning to shine.  Yes it is a long season and they play in what is arguably baseball’s toughest division but I expect them to surprise people this year.

The Orioles begin a home stand at Camden Yards Monday hosting the very tough Texas Rangers followed by the always tough Tampa Bay Rays. The road trip was amazing but the Orioles need to be totally focused after the exhausting series against the Red Sox to win against these two very tough teams.

In other interesting baseball news this week, Jared Weaver of the Angels pitched a no-hitter, Albert Pujols got his first home run of the year and Mariano Rivera of the Yankees was lost for the season due to a freak pre-game injury to his ACL and meniscus.  Bryce Harper, the 19 year old wunderkind of the Nationals broke into the majors in a big way this week showing a prowess very unusual for a player his age. He has shown exceptional ability at bat, on the bases and in the outfield.

Until tomorrow when I take on the topic of the sweeping changes brought about by the European elections and their possible effect on us over here on this side of the pond.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve Loves the MLB Winter Meetings now More than Ever, Ron Santo Elected to Hall of Fame and Happy “Repeal Day!”

The Big Prizes at the Winter Meetings: Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder (Photo Jeff Curry/US Presswire)

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

Yes my friends it is the time of year that the great Earl Weaver said was the most important to building championship teams.  The off season, particularly the winter meetings which are taking place this week in Milwaukee Wisconsin.  It is only Monday but things are heating up with discussions surrounding some of the league’s biggest stars and just who might sign them to big time contracts.

Every team has needs and during the winter meetings the goal is to find ways of meeting those needs from sources outside your system with the goal of producing a winning team.  At least that is what one hopes but things don’t always work out as planned.

Now the Miami Marlins are spending money like a drunken sailor and eying the biggest “fish” in the Sea of Free Agency.  So far they have spent 26 million on closer Heath Bell and 102 million for 6 years on Jose Reyes and are heavily engaged in courting Albert Pujols. Other teams are working hard to sign other major Free Agents and make deals and for me this is so much more exciting because I have finally gotten on Twitter and I am getting to hear the trade rumors, speculation and deals as they happen. This is cool.  Of course it is so much information that I cannot process it all at once and it will give me grist for later posts about how I see things stacking up for the various teams.  Big stories other than Pujols and Fielder include C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehle and even speculation about the possible return of Manny Ramirez.

As for my hopes…I hope that the Giants get some solid hitting this week, I would love to see Fielder or Pujols in San Francisco or for that matter Baltimore but that probably will not happen. I hope that the Giants get hitting and that the Orioles get some pitching and maybe another big bat.  Of course bad deal for the Dodgers is always welcome and a meltdown of the rest of the AL East greatly appreciated.  Hey I can dream can’t I?

The Ron Santo that I remember

One great thing to happen today was the vote to induct the late Ron Santo into the Hall of Fame. Santo received 15 of 16 votes from the Golden Age Committee composed of 16-member Golden Era Committee comprised of Hank Aaron, Pat Gillick, Al Kaline, Ralph Kiner, Tommy Lasorda, Juan Marichal,Brooks Robinson, Billy Williams, Paul Beeston, Bill DeWitt, Roland Hemond, Gene Michael, Al Rosen, Dick Kaegel, Jack O’Connell, and Dave Van Dyck voted Ron Santo into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Santo played as a Third Baseman for 14 years for the Chicago Cubs and one year for the White Sox and was an outstanding player.  Santo was a 9 time All Star who hit 342 Home Runs and 2254 hits, a .277 Batting Average and had 1331 RBI and was excellent defensively winning 5 Gold Glove awards.  But the raw numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Santo also had 1108 walks a .362 OBP, .464 SLG and .826 OPS.  Santo played the majority of his career battling Type I Diabetes and concealed it until 1971 fearing that he would be forced to retire. He began a broadcasting career with the Cubs in 1990. He had his legs amputated in 2001 and 2002 and died December 10th 2010 of complications from bladder cancer and diabetes. Some may contest his election but I always thought that he should be in the Hall of Fame.

But on a more serious Constitutional issue I wish all of my readers a Happy Repeal Day. Yes this is the anniversary of when Congress righted a gross wrong by passing the 21st Amendment to the Constitution which repealed the 18th Amendment and restored balance to the universe.

You see back in July of 1919 following the Great War a large group of “values voters” got together and decided that it was the consumption of alcoholic beverages that was leading the nation to ruin. The fact that we had been on the winning side, or God’s side in what was not the “Mediocre War” but the “Great War” and were moving into economic dominance was of little matter.  Pharisees like to make their own rules as they go along.  So the Congress passed the 18th Amendment which banned the production, consumption or transportation of said alcoholic beverage in the country.  One of the promoters of this was a man named Welch who coincidently marketed Grape juice.  If you go to a church that uses grape juice for communion this is where it bean as churches used wine before that time because it was accepted as Biblical.

Of course when organized and for that mater disorganized crime took over what had been the previously legal activity of producing alcoholic drink the prohibitionists decided that tougher law enforcement was the answer. Of course that didn’t work and the problems that had been previously associated with the consumption of alcohol in its legal form got worse everyone knew that a great fraud had been perpetrated on the American people.  When that failed as it was bound to do groups of people, decided to disobey the law, including my grandfather Ernie and great uncle Johnny who ran “stills” in Wayne County West Virginia while others who lobbied to repeal the dreadful act.  Finally on December 5th 1933 with great irony the vastly prohibitionist and Mormon legislature of the great state of Utah ratified the 21st Amendment to end the fraud that religious hucksters masquerading as promoters of family values perpetrated in 1919. Let’s hope that that we don’t have top go down this road again. After all we in the Navy are still suffering from the decision of prohibitionist Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels ended the use of alcohol in moderation on Navy ships in 1914 making us one of the few non-Islamic in the world navies to be “dry.”

So I wish everyone a Happy Repeal Day and God bless America!

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

The Big Prizes at the Winter Meetings: Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder Jeff Curry/US Presswire

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The BCS (Bogus Championship Series) Sham, Tebow the Heretic wins Again, and Moolah over Miami…

It is amazing to see how the Bowl Championship series works. I think we should rename it the Bogus Championship Series.  I am old fashioned it just seems to me that we have an SEC West rematch as the national title game. Sorry, LSU won that Alabama should not be considered for the National Championship. Yes they are a solid team, one of the best in the country but it would have been far more “national championshippy” to have two teams out of the same division playing for the “national championship” if that is what it pretends to be. Even in sports that have “wild card” berths such as Major League Baseball and the NFL never can a wild card team play for the World Series or Super Bowl against a team from its own division. Same goes for the NHL and the NBA. The fact is that we should have LSU playing Oklahoma State for the Title or another team that actually won its Conference Championship.

The fact is that in most sports in fact all but the BCS there are times that an excellent team doesn’t get to play for the championship simply because someone in their conference, division or league had a better record.  If an entity wants to call its title a “national” title it should include two teams that represent different conferences.  What a sham, the real national title game will not be played just to replay the SEC West championship. When you look at the other BCS games it is clear that the BCS process has failed again. Since we are never going to get a playoff system in Division One NCAA College Football or a tournament like in NCAA Basketball we would be just as well off to go back to the old bowl system and let everyone argue about what team is number one.  We end up doing that now anyway most of the time so let’s end the BCS farce.  Actually you could probably have a real playoff system but there is far too much money in the current system for anyone, the NCAA, the Universities and the Bowl Game sponsors themselves to want to change it no matter how bad of system it is.

From real failures we go to the man that so many want to fail, Denver Broncos Quarterback Tim Tebow.  Now I am not a Tebow fan or promoter by far and certainly am not a Broncos fan unless they are playing the Cowboys or Steelers. However, despite the fact that he is not the kind of quarterback that has dominated the sport for decades.  Since the day he was drafted he has been treated with distain by most of the sports media and former players that serve as commentators.

Now I agree that Tebow doesn’t fit the template that the NFL uses now but he leads and inspires his team to win.  The way that he does it isn’t pretty and he will never be John Elway or Steve Young.  He is to use religious parlance a “heretic.” But who says that he needs to be? What if he is the kid that defies the rules wins games and inspires his team. Isn’t that what it is really about or is it about maintaining an illusion that there is only one way to lead teams and win games?  Tebow for all of his technical limitations finds ways to win and inspires his teammates.  He rapidly becoming a successful NFL heretic. I like heretics and despite it all I hope that he continues to win just to make “experts” look foolish shut his critics up.

Finally the Miami Marlins have spent more money on one player than they did for their entire payroll.  This is actually nothing new Jeff Loria buys a team, wins a world series and discards the team the next year.  However money talks and Loria has a lot to throw around. He signed closer Heath Bell for 27 million and Jose Reyes for a cool 102 million on a six year deal that includes no “no trade” clause.  It looks like they are also serious about spending big money on Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder and possibly Tiger starting pitcher Mark Buerhle. If they keep spending money like this and the Security Exchange Commission keeps investigating this could end up more like an episode of Miami Vice rather than last years CSI Miami season which ended with the Marlins dead on the slab.   Regardless the National League East will be radically different in 2012 with Ozzie Guillen at the helm and what looks like unlimited money to spend.  I can only say I wish the same would happen for the Orioles despite the fact that our uniforms are going to be way cooler than the Marlins new duds even if we lose over 90 games again.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Baseball News: Awards, CBA, Player and Manager Moves…Why the Off Season Matters

“You win pennants in the off season when you build your teams with trades and free agents.” Earl Weaver

The World Series is in the past but the baseball world is abuzz with awards, trades, free agent offers and the possibility of a reorganization of the Major Leagues and even a new five year Collective Bargaining Agreement deal between the players union and the league.  Baseball it seems has become the model of stability and sensibility in the American sporting world.  Even as I write the Owners and GMs are meeting in Milwaukee and the Winter meetings are just over the horizon.  This is where teams are built and where the seeds of future pennants are planted.

One has to admit that the 2012 baseball season was something to behold. The record comebacks of the Rays and Cardinals and epic collapses of the Braves and Red Sox in the final month of the season that led to one of the most if not the most memorable regular season endings in baseball history.  The storybook season of the Arizona Diamondbacks going from worst to first in the NL West was another amazing story.

Awards for outstanding achievement are being given out; Tigers Pitcher Justin Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award on a unanimous ballot.  Diamondbacks Manager Kirk Gibson won the National League Manager of the Year award for leading his team to a Division Championship and Rays Manager Joe Maddon who brought his team back from the abyss to reach the playoffs on the last day of the regular season won the American League Manager of the Year.  The National League Rookie of the Year award went to the Atlanta Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel and Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson took the American League award.  The National League Cy Young still remains as well as the Most Valuable Player awards.

The Cubs and Red Sox are still shopping for managers while the Cardinals chose former catcher Mike Matheny to fill the shoes left by Tony LaRussa who retired after the miraculous finish that led to a Word Series Championship.  Pitching Coach Dave Duncan, LaRussa’s long time right hand man remains as does Hitting Coach Mark McGwire.  Former Red Sox Manager Terry Francona announced today that he will not manage in 2012 something that most baseball experts agree is a good choice.   I agree considering how exhausted Francona appeared after the end of the season and his firing.  The Orioles have a new General Manager, Dan Duquette who replaced Andy McPhail and Red So GM Theo Epstein went to the Cubs in the hopes of reversing the curse.  There are reports tonight that the Cubs will sign Dale Sveum as their new Manager.

It looks as if the sale of the Houston Astros will go through and with it the team’s move to the American League. This will balance the leagues at 15 teams each and allow for year round inter-league play and is part of the new CBA which reportedly could be signed as early as Friday.  The CBA is actually remarkable considering the great consternation caused by the NFL lockout and the probable loss of an entire NBA season due to failures to resolve collective bargaining agreements.  The baseball negotiation process has been fireworks free and negotiators from the owners and player’s union seem to remember the damage caused by the 1994 strike and what happened in the NFL and NBA seems to have learned the lessons of history.

Some of the big free agents look like they could be on the move and one, Red Sox Closer Jonathan Papelbon signed a contract with the Phillies while the Miami Marlins are making serious bids for St Louis First Baseman Albert Pujols and Met’s Shortstop Jose Reyes.  Brewers First Baseman Cecil Fielder is on the market and the Yankees appear to be looking for pitching support to complement their ace C C Sabathia who the re-signed. Plenty of other big name free agents remain to be signed and it will be interesting to see where they all land.

Even though there are no games being played in the Major Leagues baseball is making news and in the process showing how important the off season is to the regular season.  This is going to be an exciting off season for baseball and bodes well for the upcoming regular season.  What a great game.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Incredible, Improbable, Amazing and Unbelievable: The Epic Saga of the 2011 World Series Champion St Louis Cardinals

Champions  Photo By Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

“I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers…The Rangers are an amazing team and I do think that they are the better team and really want to win this, but there is something about this 2011 Cardinals team.  Since the end of August they have played every day with their season on the line and risen to the occasion.  Besides they have the Rally Squirrel…. How can they lose?” Padre Steve on October 19th (Cardinals in Seven: Padre Steve’s World Series Pick)

I hate to say I told you so, no wait that’s a lie; I love to be right and hate to be wrong.  For the third strait year since starting to do so I picked the World Series winner.  Last year I had a dog in the fight, my San Francisco Giants, this year I didn’t and I enjoyed the playoffs and World Series immensely. That being said this is about the incredible, improbable, amazing and unbelievable epic regular season comeback and playoff run of the St Louis Cardinals.  In order to keep this from being the mother of all posts I have included links to the articles that I wrote about their accomplishment as September came to an end and as the 2011 Cardinals became part of baseball history and immortality.

Incredible: The Road to the World Series

Back in August I remember talking with a friend about the pennant race.  At the time the Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Braves in the NL Wild Card Race. They had endured major adversity, their closer Ryan Franklin was released, Albert Pujols had rebuffed a contract offer and refused to negotiate during the season and to make matters worse he had broken a bone in his wrist and was expected to be out at least 4 weeks. Expected lead starting pitcher Adam Wainwright went on the disabled list on March 25th and never pitched a game in the season.  The Cardinals suffered injuries and adversity throughout the season and by all calculations it looked like they were done.

On the morning of August 25th Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals woke up having been swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home in a series where the Dodgers outscored the Cardinals 24-7. They were so far out of the Wild Card that all the talk was not about the playoffs but finishing well.

Then something changed though it as imperceptible at first.  They took 3 of 4 from the Pirates and traveled to Milwaukee and swept three from the division leading Brewers and were now 8.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card.  But then the Cincinnati Reds took 2 of 3 and it looked like the Cardinals might fade. They got their groove back and took 2 of 3 from the Brewers at home and swept three from the Braves. On September 11th the Cardinals were 4.5 out of the Wild Card.  The Giants had fallen back to 7.5 out and like others I started to notice the Cardinals.

The Cardinals then made a road trip throughPennsylvaniaand took 2 of 3 from the Pirates and 3 of 4 from the Phillies before coming home to face the Mets. With just 9 games left the Cardinals were 2.5 games behind the faltering Braves with the Giants clawing at their heels just 4.5 games behind the Braves.

The Cards took two from the Mets on the 20th and 21st but then dropped a game to the Mets and lost 5-1 in Chicago.  On the 24th they were 2 behind the Braves with 5 games left.  They then won two one run games against the Cubs, 2-1 on the 24th and 3-2 on the 25th.  The morning of the 26th of September they were down by 1 game. The Cardinals had to face the lowly Houston Astros in Houston while the Braves had to face the Phillies.  Unbelievably the Cardinals lost to the Astros on the 26th but the Braves also lost so the lead was still one game, had the Braves won the best that the Cardinals could hope for was a one game playoff with the Braves. On the 27th they defeated the Astros 13-6 while the Braves lost yet again and with one game left the Cardinals had caught the Braves.

Down to the Wire: MLB’s Epic Wild Card September Continues to Amaze

September 28th dawned with two epic comebacks and two epic collapses in the making. In the American League the Boston Red Sox had lost a 9 game Wild Card lead and were tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in large part due to the lowly Baltimore Orioles who had taken 4 of 6 games from the Red Sox in the previous 9 days asTampa could not seem to lose.  While many experts thought a comeback by the Rays was possible none had thought that the Cardinals would be tied with the Braves on the final day of the regular season.

Two Tied Wild Card Races: Who would have Thunk It?

Braves stunned

On the 28th Chris Carpenter took the hill for the Cardinals and pitched a 2 hit shutout as the Cardinals pounded the Astros 8-0 with the Braves still playing the Phillies.  As the Cardinals waited in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park the Braves had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th against the Phillies.  The Phillies scored 1 in the top of the 7th and with two outs in the bottom of the 9th tied the game.  They would go on to win in 13 as the Braves lost 18 of their last 27 games including the last 5 games of the season. The Cardinals won 23 of 31 games after August 24th.  It was incredible somehow the Cardinals had reached the playoffs.

UNBELIEVABLE! Braves and Red Sox Collapse Complete! Rays and Cardinals win Wild Cards, Orioles sink Red Sox with 2 Outs in Bottom of the 9th as Longoria hits walk off against Yankees

Improbable: Cardinals defeat Phillies in NLDS

An Icon is born…the Rally Squirrel

The Cardinals went into the NLDS as decided underdogs but despite that I had a strange feeling about this series. Philadelphia Phillies owned the best record in the regular season but were just 4-12 from September 11th to the 24th.   The Cardinals had taken 3 of 4 from the Phillies during that period and the Phillies hitters were struggling.

However in game one the Phillies seemed to be everything that they were advertised. The slammed Kyle Lohse and the Cardinals 13-6 but in game two the Cardinals defeated Cliff Lee 5-4 to tie the series.  That game was significant because Tony LaRussa stunned the experts by removing Chris Carpenter who had given up 4 runs from the game after 3 innings. He then used 6 relievers who shut out the Phillies as the Cardinals hitters plated 5 runs.

The series returned to St Louis and the Phillies took a 2 game to 1 lead in the series by defeating the Cardinals 3-2.  The Cardinals who had been living on the edge since August appeared to be looking at an early exit from the playoffs.  But the Cardinals were not dead, they won game four 5-3 powered by the hitting of Lance Berkman and David Freese. Freese drove in 4 runs hammering a two run double and to run home run off of Roy Oswalt.

This sent the teams back to Philadelphia for the decisive game five.  This was a battle of the best Roy Halliday on the hill for the Phillies and Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals.  The Cardinals struck first for the only run of the game when Rafael Furcal tripled to lead off the first and scored when Skip Schumaker doubled.  Halliday then shut down the Cardinals for 8 innings.  But Carpenter who had been battered by the Phillies in game two pitched a 3 hit shutout to win the game.  The Cardinals had done the improbable, they beat Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and they had beaten the best regular season team in baseball, a team built to avenge their 2010 NLCS loss to the Giants and win the World Series.

Amazing: Cardinals defeat the Brewers

The Cardinals had taken out the Phillies but had to face the big bats of their division rival the Milwaukee Brewers to get to the World Series.  Most experts picked the Brewers to win because they had the home field advantage and were billed as the better team. They had Cecil Fielder and led the NL in home runs and slugging percentage and they had home field advantage.  Playing at home this was huge for the Brewers in 2011 they were 57-24 at home win percentage of .703 and their team batting average was 31 points higher at home than on the road.  The Brewers and Cardinals split their 18 regular season games evenly but Milwaukee was 5-4 at home against the Redbirds and had outscored them 48-39 at home. Despite this the Cardinals had a better team batting average and led the NL and Brewers in every major offensive category except home runs and the teams had an identical slugging percentage of .425 while the Brewers pitching was somewhat better than the Cardinals.

Game one went as many expected. Milwaukee won the game 9-6 and took a 1-0 lead in the series.  However the Cardinals turned the tables in a big way in game two shelling the Brew Crew 12-3 as Albert Pujols went 4-5 with a Home Run, three Doubles and 5 RBI while David Freese hit his second home run and 5th RBI of the series.  It was a stunning loss for the Brewers and the series moved back to St Louis tied.

The Cardinals took game 3 by a score of 4-3 as they scored 4 times in the top of the first inning and their LaRussa used Carpenter for 5 innings and then relied on his bullpen to shut the Brewers down and they did allowing no runs and no hits the remainder of the game.  Pujols and Freese each doubled and brought their RBI total to 6 each.  However the Brewers tied the series in game four winning the game behind the pitching of Randy Wolf.   In game five the Brewers defense imploded giving up 4 errors.  Matt Holiday went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and the Cardinals beat Zach Greinke and the Brewers 7-1 taking a 3-2 lead but heading back to Milwaukee where the Brewers were expected to make a strong showing.

In game six it was the Cardinals that turned on the offense and not the Brewers.  The Cardinals scored 12 runs nine of which were earned.  They scored 4 runs in the top of the 1st inning and drove Brewers starter Shaun Marcum from the game, David Freese hit his third home run of the series.  The Brewers brought Chris Narveson into the game in the top of the 2nd inning hoping to stop the Cardinals onslaught.  Narveson faired worse than Marcum giving up 5 earned runs in 1.2 innings work and gave up home runs to Rafael Furcal and Pujols.  The Brewers managed a respectable 6 runs four of which came off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson who pitched just 2 innings.  The Cardinals bullpen rose to the occasion, in 7 innings 5 relievers gave up just 2 runs on 3 hits.

Unbelievable: Cardinals defeat Rangers in 7 games to win the World Series

The expectation before the World Series began was the Cardinals and the Rangers would turn this series into an all out slugging affair.  The expectation was partially met but games one and two were low scoring affairs that featured plenty of great defense and pitching.  In game one it was solid defense and pitching which gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win over the Rangers.  Rangers catcher Mike Napoli hit a 5th inning home run and drove in the only Texas runs of the game and David Freese drove in the winning run with a 6th inning double off of C J Wilson.

 Cardinals take Game One 3-2: Defense and Pitching Key to Win

Game two was a pitching duel that it looked like the Cardinals would win. Starting pitchers Colby Lewis of  Texas and Jaime Garcia pitched extremely well. The Cardinals scored a run when Allen Craig singed off of Alexi Ogando who had come in to relieve Lewis with 2 outs in the 7th.  Craig’s single scored David Freese and gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.  But the Rangers managed a comeback win in the top of the 9th inning.

Comeback: Rangers Win Battle of the Bullpens

The series went to Texas tied and it was expected that scoring would go up but no one expected the carnage that the Cardinals would inflict on the Rangers in game three.  Albert Pujols tied the World Series single game home run record held by Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth with 3 and the most RBI in a World Series game with six.  The Cardinals defeated the Rangers 16-7 and took a 2-1 lead in the series.

Beat Down in Texas: Pujols Sets Record as Cardinals down Rangers 16-7

The Rangers may have been down but they were not out and instead of another slugfest game four as Derek Holland shut out the Cardinals allowing just 2 hits.  Mike Napoli hit a 3 run home run off of Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs to ensure the win in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Shutdown! Derek Holland Silences Cardinals Rangers tie Series

Game five would be memorable for one inning, the eighth when it appeared that Tony LaRussa lost his managerial mojo and the Rangers scored a comeback win despite a strong performance by Chris Carpenter.  This time the St Louisbullpen imploded aided by on field miscues and errors, malfunctioning bullpen phones and perplexing managerial decisions by LaRussa.  The Rangers won the game 4-2 to take a 3-2 series lead into St Louis.

Where has the Managerial Mojo Gone? LaRussa Manages the Worst Inning of his Career as Rangers go up 3 games to 2

It was the most amazing World Series game ever played but the first few innings would not have indicated this.  They were marked a combined 5 errors and poor pitching and it looked like the Rangers were on their way to winning an unremarkable game six on their way to their first World Series championship.  The Rangers led 7-4 with back to back solo home runs by Adriane Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the 7th inning and the Cardinals were down to their last six outs.  But that changed in what became the greatest game in World Series history. The Cardinals came back 5 times in the game, a World Series Record. They were down to their last strike down by two runs twice and they won on a walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th.  They used two pitchers as pinch hitters and somehow they still won 10-9 to set up the deciding game seven.

Padre Steve’s live Game Six commentary on Facebook 

8:31 PM World Series Game 6 after an inning Cardinals 2 Rangers 1… 9:46 PM It’s a comedy of errors as Texas leads 4-3 in the top of the 5th inning…10:38 PM 4-4 bases loaded for the Cardinals, can’t believe 5 total errors in the game so far…10:36 PM Ogando is now O gone do another walk bases loaded again, Napoli saved the run by picking off Holliday. If the Rangers win the Series I spell MVP “NAPOLI”…10:44 PM The long ball, to solo home runs for Texas, Beltre and Cruz 6-4 Rangers… 10:58 PM 7-4…1100 PM ‎7-4 and the inning is done….Rangers now 9 outs from winning their first World Series….11:08 PM ‎2 outs bottom of the 7th…Pujols last stand as a Cardinal?…11:09 PM and he is out 0-4 tonight….unless the Cardinals get some base runners his St Louis career could end not with a bang but a whimper…11:19 PM 7-5 home run Allen Craig off Derek Holland…not done yet…11:27 PM 2 on 2 out are the Cardinals coming back?…11:28 PM bases loaded top of the order….Jon Jay gets his first hit since game 6 of the NLCS…11:29 PM Furcal bounces out…7-5 going to the 9th Pujols will bat again….11:43 PM Top of the 9th Neftali Feliz on the hill and top of the order up…11:43 PM 1 out…11:44 PM  Pujols steps up and has a stand up double, tying run at the plate…11:46 PM four pitch walk 2 on 1 out winning run at bat…11:50 PM Craig strikes out Rangers one out away from history…11:52 PM one strike away…11:54 PM Freese doubles, tie game, home town boy makes good…11:54 PM make it a triple, winning run at 3rd…11:54 PM extra innings….wow…12:01 AM 1 on 1 out and Josh Hamilton has his first HR of the post season Rangers lead 9-7…12:09 AM Down 2 Cardinals are again down to their last 3 outs with one aboard…12:11 AM ‎2 on with none out, and a pitcher pinch hits because the Cardinals have no position players left…12:12 AM tying run in scoring position with 1 out…12:20 AM 9-8 Rangers, runner on 2nd Pujols coming up and an intentional walk Berkman will come to the plate…12:22 AM down to the last strike again…12:24 AM Tie game Berkman singles, Pujols is winning run on third…can you say amazing?…12:25 AM to the 11th we go…12:30 AM  Napoli up… one out…base hit…Murphy coming to the plate…12:34 Rangers out in the 11th Cardinals coming to bat…12:40 AM Walk off home run David Freese, game 7 tomorrow! Do you believe in miracles? Cardinals win 10-9 Holy Cow!

Holy Cow! Do You believe in Miracles? Padre Steve Does… Cardinals refuse to Lose

When gave six was over I knew that the Rangers were done.  Once again it was a combination of Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals bullpen shutting down the Rangers and the clutch hitting of David Freese and Allen Craig which sealed the Rangers to a second consecutive World Series loss as they went down to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals. They had come so close.  They were a great team but lost to a team of destiny.  That is little comfort to Rangers players and fans, but some things seem almost destined. The Series MVP was local favorite David Freese who finished the postseason with a record 21 runs batted in and tied the postseason record with 25 hits. Freese is the first position player to be named both League Championship Series MVP and World Series MVP since Darrell Porter did so for the Cardinals in 1982.

The Cardinals lived on the edge for two months a time when every game mattered.  Their effort was a true team effort. When starting pitching faltered the bullpen got it done and when needed the starting rotation anchored by Chris Carpenter got the job done.  They overcame adversity to accomplish a feat that very few said they could do. They are Major League Baseball’s 2011 World Series Champions. Their feat was epic and will long be written about and spoken of by anyone that loves the game of Baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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