Baseball always has a way of evening out. For example, since the St. Louis organization first started playing professional baseball in 1882, (first as the St. Louis Perfectos, St. Louis Browns and St. Louis Brown Stockings…then finally the Cardinals in 1900), the club has won 52% of their games. In fact, no team in baseball has an all-time winning percentage lower than 46%(San Diego) of higher than 57% (New York Yankees). That’s pretty even in the grand scheme of things.
On Monday night, on a smaller scale of less than one calendar year, things evened out once again in the baseball world. The defending World Series champion Cardinals were eliminated from the NLCS in game seven, losing 9-0 to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants won their record tying sixth elimination game of the postseason, rallying from a three games to one deficit to advance to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. In doing so, the Giants outscored the Cardinals 20-1 over the final three games behind great starting pitching from Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain. Their pitchers had more RBIs in the final three games then the regular Cardinal hitters. The Cardinals were 1 for 14 at the plate with runners in scoring position. Last year’s MVP David Freese was 1 for 11 in the final three games. Kyle Lohse, who went 16-3, lasted just two innings. Lohse never pitched fewer than five innings in any start all year. In fact the last time Lohse didn’t make a start past the fourth inning was August 4, 2010. On top of being outplayed, the Cardinals were no longer getting the right bounces.
Already trailing 2-0 in the third, Mike Matheny played his cards right, just like the rookie manager had done all season. He pulled his ace starting pitcher and brought in rookie Joe Kelly, who did an amazing job this season first as a starter, then a reliever. Kelly got the ground ball he needed for a double play, but instead Hunter Pence’s bat broke apart and actually hit the ball three times, causing so much spin, that it changed directions on shortstop Pete Kozma. With Kozma moving to his right, the ball hit the infield dirt and skipped to his left, scoring two runs. Then, the ever reliable Jon Jay couldn’t cleanly come up with the ball in center field, allowing Buster Posey to score from first.
Just like that, a routine play went bad and instead of the Cards trailing 3-0 with two outs, the Giants were up 5-0 with no outs in the third.
I’m not claiming there is something cosmic out there that causes this to happen. This is just baseball and when a team grabs momentum, great things happen, great pitches are made, great plays are made in the field and teams come up with clutch hits. In this series and postseason so far, that’s been the Giants and Tigers. After the run in 2011, through this season and up until Friday night, the Cardinals were that team, but to San Francisco’s credit, they battled and did the little things necessary to win.
While it may have been tough to swallow knowing the end was near, as you watched Brandon Belt’s eighth inning homer leave the park off Jason Motte’s fastball, or MVP Scutaro (6 for 11 at the plate in the last three games), fighting rain drops to catch the final pop out, you’ll realize the Cardinals run over the last 13 months has been absolutely amazing.
Take this one positive with you as you settle in for a long winter Cardinal fans. Once February and spring training rolls around, all 30 teams start with a record of 0-0…You can’t get anymore even than that.