Over 66,000 fans arrived in downtown St. Louis on Wednesday night for two very important sporting events, for two very different reasons. One was a playoff game, the other just the third game of a long season, but each held significant importance for the teams.
Of course, other than the World Series, nothing is bigger than clinching a playoff baseball series, which the Cardinals did behind the pitching of ace Adam Wainwright. He admitted he was nervous, but limited the Pirates to one run on eight hits while walking one and striking out six in a 6-1 victory, to complete a comeback and claim a 3-2 NL Division Series win.
David Freese showed up again when it mattered most and delivered a two-run homer in the third inning off rookie Gerrit Cole. That smash, along with another two run homer from Matt Adams and good defense, was all Wainwright needed to dominate for nine innings.
Watching Wainwright take a deep breath and getting Pedro Alvarez to whiff on a third straight curve balls, followed by his yell from the pitcher’s mound sent chills up and down my spine…what an awesome moment.
Meanwhile, just down the road, while it was only the third game of 82 on the Blues regular season schedule, they were hosting the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in what felt like a playoff game.
The Blues understand that if they want to raise the Cup, they have to prove they can beat the best team in the Western Conference. Moments before Wainwright’s big strikeout, forward Alexander Steen broke a 2-2 tie with 21.1 seconds left, blasting a slap shot through the legs of Hawks goalie Corey Crawford for a 3-2 win.
The Blues grabbed 1-0 and 2-1 leads and each time, the Hawks answered by scoring two power play goals and ill-timed penalties.
In fact, the Blues led the entire game for a total of two minutes and 17 seconds. After their first goal, the Hawks tied it 1:17 later on a goal from star Patrick Kane and then when the Blues went up 2-1, their captain Jonathan Toews poked in a loose puck to tie it back just 39 seconds later.
Watch the game winners and celebration. Video courtesy of MLB.com and NHL.com. Audio courtesy of KMOX.