Tag Archives: C.J. Wilson

Cardinals are World Series Champions

For the 11th time in their illustrious history, the St. Louis Cardinals can be called World Series Champions. Thankfully, they did it without the type of drama or heroics required in Game 6.

The Texas Rangers got on Chris Carpenter early, putting up two runs in the top of the first. It looked like it was going to be more of the same from the night before. But in the bottom of the first, it was David Freese once again delivering in the clutch with a two-RBI double to tie the game up.

After getting into a little trouble in the top of the second, Carpenter started to settle in, and so did Cardinals fans who have grown accustomed to knowing when Carp has a game under control. When all was said and done, he gave the Cardinals 6 quality innings on the mound, allowing just those two first inning runs. It was exactly what the Cardinals needed.

In the bottom of the 3rd, Allen Craig put the Cardinals on top with his third home run of the World Series and what would end up as his second game-winning hit of the series, bookending the best of 7. His 6th inning single in Game 1 scored David Freese in what put the Cardinals ahead to win that game 3-2.

In the bottom of the 4th, the Cardinals threatened to score once again on Rangers’ starter Matt Harrison. Yadier Molina and Rafael Furcal both singled before Skip Schumaker and Carpenter got the final two outs of the inning. However, that was enough for Harrison as the Rangers would head to the bullpen, who would hopefully put the brakes on this Cardinals team.

However, it was anything but, as the game unraveled in the bottom of the 5th and Cardinals fans exhaled then breathed a sigh of relief. The Rangers put Scott Feldman on the mound, but he got into trouble after walking Allen Craig and hitting Albert Pujols with one out. Lance Berkman moved the runners over before the Rangers intentionally walked Freese to load the bases.

Then Yadier Molina drew a walk that scored Allen Craig to give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead. The Rangers then went to the bullpen for C.J. Wilson, their #1 starter to try to stop the bleeding. Wilson may not have been ready and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, scoring Pujols for a 5-2 Cardinals lead before striking out Schumaker.

In the top of the 6th, Nelson Cruz almost broke the postseason record for home runs in a playoff run and reclaimed some momentum for the Rangers with his shot to left field. However, Allen Craig found himself guilty of Grand Theft Homer when he pulled Cruz’s ball back with an excellent defensive play. To me, that was the defining moment of the game that really sucked the air out of the Rangers.

Jason Motte came into the game in the top of the ninth and needed just 11 pitches to work his way through Cruz, Mike Napoli, and David Murphy to close out the Cardinals’ first World Series clincher since 2006.

In the end, David Freese walked away with the World Series MVP trophy, a 2011 Chevrolet Corvette. His finally tally for the World Series featured a .348 batting average, 1 HR, and 7 RBI. He totalled up 21 RBI and 52 total bases in the playoffs, which now stand as postseason records.

However, you could have made a sincere argument for Allen Craig as MVP. Craig drove in the winning run in Game 1, drove in what should have been the winning run in Game 2, hit the game winning home run in Game 7, and hit a critical home run in Game 6 that allowed David Freese to tie up the game in the 9th inning. Certainly a stellar postseason resume for a player who, if all goes well according to Cardinals’ fans, doesn’t even have a guaranteed starting position going into next season.

This season is one that I will never forget. To follow this team virtually all season, all 180 games, was a once in a lifetime experience and to have it end like this? Amazing.

This World Series will probably not top the 2001 World Series on anyone’s list for the greatest World Series ever (mainly due to the Yankees or Red Sox’s lack of involvement), but it has in my opinion. In that series, Arizona headed home on the heels of two consecutive blown saves by their closer Byung-Hyun Kim. They too were down 3 games to 2. They blew out the Yankees in Game 6 before beating the Yankees’ invincable Mariano Rivera in the final inning of Game 7 to win the game and the series.

At the time I was even a Diamondbacks fan. So there’s no fanboyism.

However, this year. The Cardinals made mistakes that cost them Games 4 and 5. The series was prepared to go down as the Cardinals having lost the series to the Rangers rather than the Rangers truly winning it. Those miscues would have doomed any number of teams, but these Cardinals were resilient and fought back. Even when down by three runs late in Game 6, they hadn’t given up. They fought back to tie the game while down to their last strike in both the 9th and the 10th innings. Then on a well hit pitch came away with the winner. Then their ace went onto the mound on three days rest and shut down the Rangers in Game 7.

It’s certainly the best World Series of my lifetime. I can’t speak intelligently about those before.

The question on many people’s minds after the realization that the Cardinals won the World Series was what this means for Albert Pujols’ contract situation. To me, I think it guarantees that Pujols will be back with this club next season. Over the last few years Albert has said he wants to be somewhere that gives him the opportunity to win championships. Well, you’ll have a hard time convincing anyone of that when you walk away from a World Series team that has a pitcher like Adam Wainwright returning to the mound next year.

The risk to his legacy would be too great to simply walk away from St. Louis for more or equal money. If he leaves, he will never be felt in the same vein as the other Cardinals’ greats. The scar of his walking away from a World Series Champion would be too great. Albert is a smart man, and I’m sure he understands that.

For now though, enjoy this championship.

Why? Because the Cardinals will likely be favored to do it all again next season. Which means they’ll probably finish third in the NL Central.

Freese keeps the champagne on ice

Four times the Cardinals tied up or took the lead in the game. Four times the Rangers followed in their next half inning by taking it back. When Jake Westbrook came in to pitch the top of the 11th and held the Rangers off the board, that was the first time that the Rangers hadn’t come back immediately to take the lead. And it was just what the doctor ordered… Doctor Freese, that is.

After tying up the game with a two-out, two-RBI triple in the bottom of the 9th on a 1-2 count, David Freese came to bat to lead off the bottom of the 11th in a tie game.

Flashback to the 2004 when in Game 6 it was Jim Edmonds hitting a 12th inning home run into the St. Louis night to take the series to Game 7. Coincidentally, it was Jim Edmonds who was traded to San Diego for David Freese. So when Freese came to bat in the 11th, the allusions were made.

While Edmonds’ shot was just that, a shot. Freese’s had a little more doubt as he hit to straight away centerfield and dropping it just a few feet beyond the fence.

Because of the home run and the triple, Freese will get all the attention as the savior of the game. Well deserved attention too, but let’s not forget the rest of the crew that played pivotal roles in this come back.

After being injured diving back to third base on a pickoff play by Mike Napoli, Matt Holliday re-injured his finger and was forced to come out of the game. That put Allen Craig into it and the next time Craig came up to bat, he parked a curveball in the left field bleachers. It brought the game within 2 runs and was largely unheralded. Considering that Matt Holliday has hit just one home run since September 7th, over 50 days, it’s safe to say that Holliday would not have gone deep in that situation.

Next would be Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay, both left handed batters, leading off the bottom of the 10th inning against left handed reliever Darren Oliver. Descalso doesn’t hit left handers very well at all, hitting just .190 against them in the regular season. Jay lacks the split as badly, but had just 1 hit in the World Series (hitting .059) coming into that at bat. Both players would single and set the Cardinals up to make another rally back into the game.

Then Kyle Lohse got a chance to bunt in a double pinch-hit situation. Edwin Jackson pinch hit for Motte in the bottom of the 10th, but before he got a chance to take any pitches, LaRussa pulled him back and sent Kyle Lohse out for the bunt. And Lohse’s bunt, while horrible, did exactly what it needed to do, and nearly more. He advanced Desaclso and Jay to second and third which allowed Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman to drive home those two runs to tie the game back up. The bunt was far enough though, that he nearly made it on base himself. How that would have changed the complexion of the game.

Then calling on Jake Westbrook who had been relegated to bullpen duty this postseason, surely a tough situation for a longtime starting pitcher like him. But he threw his second scoreless inning of relief in the postseason in a moment where the Cardinals needed it the most. Allowing them to recapture some momentum and for David Freese to play the hero.

It was a rough game for Cardinals fans who would see their team take a step forward, only to take two steps back. To the lead, back behind. And they weren’t helping themselves on the field either.

For both teams, the game was a seeming comedy of errors. The two teams generated 5 errors between them and numerous misplays that didn’t get tagged as such. For 8 and a half innings it was going to go down as the Cardinals handing away the World Series, much like the Detroit Tigers did in 2006.

And they weren’t even tough errors. No, a misplayed fly ball to left field caught Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday failing to communicate and the ball dropped. Then you had David Freese dropping a routine pop fly to third base.

Needless to say that it would be difficult to overcome all those obstacles again. So the Cardinals need to not do it again.

Game 7 will be tonight in St. Louis with the World Series on the line. In the last 30 years, the home team in Game 7 of the World Series is 8-0.

The last time a home team failed to win a World Series Game 7, 1979, when the Pirates beat the Orioles 4-1.

It will be an interesting game for both managers after an extra innings thriller that saw both bullpens do a lot of work.

For the Rangers, Game 7’s expected starter Matt Harrison along with Michael Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson were the only three pitchers that weren’t used in Thursday night’s contest.

The Cardinals are in slightly better shape. Three starting pitchers for the Cardinals went unused in pitching situations. Edwin Jackson and Kyle Lohse both made pinch hitting appearances (sort of, Jackson pinch hit and then Lohse pinch hit for Jackson before there were any pitches thrown). Not to mention, Mitchell Boggs went unused and you have Chris Carpenter available on 3 days rest.

Each team also has some injury decisions. Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz strained his groin during his final at bat.

Also, the Rangers’ leading candidate for series MVP, Mike Napoli, who rolled, and likely sprained, his ankle on a botched slide attempt into second base. He played the rest of the game, and his xrays were negative, but swelling could be an issue.

For the Cardinals, Matt Holliday’s finger is a major question mark. There were reports that it was bothering him more than he was letting on and that could be seen at the plate, and I think in field early in that game when he let Furcal call him off of a fly ball that should have been the left fielder’s.

How will Game 7 finish out? That remains to be seen, but I thoroughly expect another nerve-wracking game. I don’t know if my heart can take it!

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Holland dominates, Rangers win

The fear that Cardinals fans had that no name, left handed pitchers would shut down the Cardinals in this World Series was finally realized. Thankfully, it’ll likely be his only start of the World Series.

The 25 year old Derek Holland completely shut down the Cardinals offense on Sunday night, tossing 8 1/3 innings of 2-hit, shutout baseball. Every Cardinals player except for Lance Berkman went hitless against Holland. Berkman was even batting from the right side against Holland, his weaker side.

Following Pujols’ historic game, Holland followed with one that could be considered historic in it’s own right. He became the 26th pitcher to throw at least 8 innings and allow 2 hits or less. The last pitcher to do it was Kenny Rogers in the 2006 World Series, coincidentally also a left handed pitcher facing the Cardinals.

His counterpart, Edwin Jackson, did not end his time in Cardinal red the way anyone wanted him to.

Elvis Andrus singled to get the Rangers started in the first inning. Josh Hamilton followed with a double that brough Andrus home for an early 1-0 Rangers lead. Jackson would get out of the inning after that. With his typical first inning troubles out of the way, Jackson began to settle in.

Despite keeping the other team off the board, Jackson started getting into walk trouble, ultimately walking 7 over his 5 1/3 innings on the mound. He walked his final two batters in the sixth before Tony LaRussa walked out to the mound to bring out Mitchell Boggs, wanting to keep the game at 1-0.

Just as FOX commentator Joe Buck finished talking about Tony LaRussa telling him that Boggs was as good as any pitcher in his bullpen when Boggs is hitting his spots, Boggs missed. Mike Napoli ripped a pitch to the left field bleachers to give the Rangers a 4-0 lead after six innings.

At that point the Rangers faithful were in the game while the Cardinals started to go down quietly. The Rangers had captured the momentum. Holland put the Cardinals down 3-up, 3-down in the 7th and 8th. In the top of the 9th, Holland came out to get the opportunity to finish what he started.

He got Nick Punto to ground out, but walked Rafael Furcal after a brief battle. Ron Washington came to the mound to talk to his young starter. Holland pleaded with Washington to let him get at least one more batter to see if he could get the double-play ball off of Craig and leave Pujols on deck. In the end, Washington made the call to the bullpen for his closer Neftali Feliz to finish out the game as Holland walked off to a standing ovation.

Feliz came into the ballgame erratic and about 4-5 miles an hour down on velocity. Allen Craig, his first batter, walked on six pitches without even taking the bat off of his shoulder.

Then Albert Pujols stepped into the box with runners on first and second with one out and a chance to put the Cardinals right back into the game with one swing of the bat. It is the kind of at bat that postseason and World Series baseball is built on.

However, Feliz was back at speed and ultimately got Pujols to harmlessly fly out to center field.

Up came Matt Holliday who worked 8 pitches off of Feliz before he swung through a 99 mile per hour fastball to end the game, giving the Rangers their second win of the series.

After the previous night’s blow out, the Cardinals were poised to put the Rangers on the ropes on Sunday night, but the Rangers weren’t going to go quietly and fought themselves out of the corner. The series now turns into a best of 3 series with the Cardinals getting home field advantage back.

With the series tied 2-2, the series is guaranteed to go at least six games. In the last 10 years, four World Series’ have gone at least six games. In three of those four, the team with home field advantage came away as World Series Champions.

In Game 5 tonight at the Ballpark in Arlington, Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson match up once again. The game will be a rematch of Game 1 that saw the Cardinals come away winners with a 4-3 result. Except that game was at Busch Stadium. Now we’re in Texas with the battle of the aces once again. The game can go any way.

However, with Carpenter up in Game 5 and then Jaime Garcia back on the mound for Game 6 back at Busch Stadium, I still like those odds.

The Cardinals haven’t done anything the easy way this season. Why start now?

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Cards take Game 1

What elbow problems? Chris Carpenter silenced the doubters who suggested that his elbow injury might limit his ability to shut down the high powered Texas Rangers offense on Wednesday night. When it was all said and done, Carpenter allowed just 5 hits and walked 1 over 6 innings. Two runs were all that the Rangers managed to put on the board, those on a one runner on mistake that Mike Napoli crushed in the top of the 5th.

The tone of the night was set early. Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the game. Kinsler, one of the two 30-30 guys this season, was caught by Yadier Molina after Elvis Andrus whiffed on an attempted hit-and-run. And it didn’t even look like Molina tried. It seemed effortless.

The Cardinals offense got the action going in the bottom of the 4th. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson had his moments, but was mostly inconsistent from the mound. That was illustrated by a pitch that bounced well before the plate and hit Albert Pujols in the shin. Then Matt Holliday doubled to give Lance Berkman an RBI opportunity in his second plate appearance of the World Series. With men on second and third, Berkman singled to right field allowing Pujols and Holliday to score easily. 2-0 Cardinals.

The Rangers answered quickly in the top of the 5th. Adrian Beltre singled to right field himself. Then a mistake to Mike Napoli was parked in the right field bleachers. That quickly evened it up, 2-2.

It was Allen Craig, pinch hitting for Chris Carpenter with two out in the bottom of the 6th, that broke up the tie game. David Freese hit a one-out double and then Nick Punto was walked to put men on first and second with the pitcher’s spot due up. This was to make Tony LaRussa pull Carpenter and go to the bullpen. The gamble is, of course, that the pinch hitter does nothing.

Tony LaRussa went with the hook and sent Allen Craig up to the plate with two outs in a tie game in the World Series. No problem with pinch hitting or coming off the bench or the pressure situation, Craig hit a line drive down the line that Nelson Cruz nearly caught with a slide. The ball bounced out of Cruz’s glove, allowing Freese to come around to score the go-ahead run. The Cardinals were now up 3-2 with 9 outs remaining, as us UCBers on Twitter have taken to tracking games by.

With Carpenter out of the game, LaRussa called upon Fernando Salas for his first choice out of the bullpen. While Adrian Beltre grounded out to start the inning off, Salas quickly found himself in trouble with a Nelson Cruz single and a Mike Napoli walk. Was the bullpen starting to show it’s first cracks from it’s heavy use in the National League Championship Series? That was the question at the forefront of Cardinals’ fans minds as LaRussa made the walk out to the mound to bring in left hander Marc Rzepczynski to face the left handed David Murphy.

In a counter move, Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington went to his bench with Craig Gentry, a right handed hitter to eliminate the lefty-lefty matchup. It didn’t matter. Rzepczynski would use 7 pitches and strike out Gentry and Esteban German who pinch hit for Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando.

To start the 8th inning, in came Octavio Dotel. He got Ian Kinsler to ground out and then struck out Elvis Andrus before Tony trotted back out to the mound with another change. In came left hander Arthur Rhodes, in his first World Series (ironically matched up between the two teams he played for this year), to face Josh Hamilton. He got Hamilton to fly out to center field and we were on to the 9th. Three outs remained between the Cardinals and a Game 1 win and early lead in the World Series.

In came the pitcher who just happens to typically come in in the 9th inning of games when it’s a save situation, Jason Motte. Some teams would call him the closer. Motte slammed the door shut on the Rangers, keeping his impressive streak of playoff performance alive. Motte has faced 25 batters over 8 innings of work this post-season and has allowed just 1 base runner.

Carpenter becomes the first Cardinals pitcher to earn a quality start in the playoffs since himself. That would be that complete game shutout that he hurled in Game 5 of the National League Divisional Series against Philadelphia.

There was some debate about whether Ron Washington managed his game properly or whether he was trying to out-manage LaRussa. Personally, I think Washington managed the game well. The worst part of it was really that he took a few gambles that didn’t pay off.

First, running on Molina in the top of the first was a huge gamble. It can be a huge momentum turner but, while Kinsler has some speed and steals bases at a better than 86% clip, if you mess the play up you end up turning the tables. In the end, Chris Carpenter gets out of lead off hit and the St. Louis crowd explodes.

Second, walking Nick Punto in the 6th was designed to get Chris Carpenter out of the game. Now, granted Punto did hit .350 with 2 outs and runners in scoring position this season, but I think you need to go after him. For one, you can be sure you’re getting only a base-hit if he gets a hit, after all he’s only hit 14 home runs in 11 major league seasons. Making the Cardinals bullpen work is one of the keys to the series for me for the Rangers, but with Allen Craig being the first man off the bench in those situations, I don’t (intentionally) walk Punto to force that. Especially when Carpenter wasn’t all that sharp tonight. Plus, you may have seen a pinch hitter anyway if Punto had reached.

The third is one that many others have questioned, using Esteban German to pinch hit with two on and two out in the 7th rather than Yorvit Torrealba. While Torrealba hit just .256 against left handed pitchers like Rzepczynski, German (who has hit .292 against left handed pitchers in his career) hadn’t taken at at bat since September 25th. I think Washington made the right decision there. You have to expect that each player on your bench can equally perform to their averages whenever you want to use them.

Trying to take the crowd out of it early and trying to get the Cardinals to use their bullpen, both are things that you’ve got to do to win while on the road. You hope you can catch a reliever on a bad night and capitalize on a mistake. Unfortunately for the Rangers, it didn’t work out for them.

Winning Game 1 puts the Cardinals at a huge advantage as far as history shows. In 13 of the 16 World Series’ in the Wild Card era, the winner of Game 1 has gone on to win the series. When the home team wins Game 1, they’ve won the series every year since 1993. Good news for the Cardinals, but while history shows it will be a difficult road for the Rangers, it’s never over until it’s over.

Game 2 will matchup the Rangers’ Colby Lewis against the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

Lewis is 1-1 in two postseason starts for the Rangers this season. He threw six one-hit innings against the Tampa Bay Rays in a 4-3 win, unfortunately that hit was a solo home run. Against the Detroit Tigers just over a week ago, he allowed 8 hits and 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings in a 5-2 loss. In the final two months of the season, Lewis was 4-2 with a 5.23 ERA, which could bode well for the Cardinals.

Only 5 current Cardinals have faced Lewis before. Lance Berkman has 13 plate appearances against him, hitting just twice. Gerald Laird is 3-for-8, Nick Punto is 0-for-1, Ryan Theriot is 2-for-2, and Albert Pujols is 1-for-1.

Garcia is 0-2 in three starts for the Cardinals in the playoffs. He allowed just 1 run in 4.2 innings in Game 5 of the NLCS, a game the Cardinals won, but was given a quick hook when the fifth inning began shaping up like that of Game 1 where Prince Fielder hit a go-ahead home run off of him. The advantage for Garcia is that he will be pitching at home, where he is a much more confident pitcher. Garcia finished the season off going 3-2 with a 4.58 ERA in the final two months of the season.

Only 2 current Rangers have faced Garcia before. Coincidentally, their two backup catchers. Matt Treanor, who was just added to the roster for the World Series is 1-for-4 against Garcia with 3 strikeouts. Yorvit Torrealba is 0-for-2.

The question for Garcia and the Cardinals is how will he handle the Rangers. According to ESPN’s Team Stats, the Rangers led the league with a .282 batting average against left handed pitchers and were second in slugging percentage at .459. Garcia also struggles against left handed hitters, allowing them to hit .308 with a .418 slugging percentage. The Rangers have a premier left handed hitter in Josh Hamilton. They also have David Murphy who has had a great postseason so far.

This is the game that I predicted to be a slugfest. Unfortunately, I think the Rangers are better suited for that type of game and will win Game 2, taking us to Arlington tied up at 1 game a piece.

The game is once again scheduled for an 8:05 pm Eastern start on FOX.

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