Tag Archives: Matt Harrison

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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Pujols powers Cards to Game 3 win

It may have been Allen Craig who got the party started, giving him three go-ahead RBI in his first three World Series at bats. But by the end of the day, it was Albert Pujols who was the story as the Cardinals took Game 3 in Arlington 16-7.

It was a game that seemed like it was going to turn into a pitcher’s duel, at least the first time through the lineup. The second time though, that was a completely different story. The teams only scored 1 run in the first 3 innings, but scored 13 combined runs over the next two innings. Then St. Louis took control of what was a 8-6 game after five innings, outscoring the Rangers 8-1 over the game’s final four innings.

The Cardinals, arguably the best road offense in major league baseball this year, showed tonight that they were not intimidated by the Rangers’ offensive abilities in the hitter friendly Ballpark in Arlington. In fact, they showed that their offense was just as potent.

Neither starting pitcher emerged from the fourth inning, though it was Matt Harrison who was supposed to give the Cardinals all he could handle as a left handed pitcher. It turned out to be the other way around.

When the dust settled on the night, it was a devastating blow to the Rangers. We’ve spent the last week hearing about how a National League club, the Cardinals, couldn’t keep up with a powerful offense like the Rangers have in an American League park while they have to use the designated hitter. The Cardinals aren’t supposed to be able to light up the board like they did. But they did.

And Albert, chief among them.

His first home run was a three-run shot in the top of the sixth to make it 10-6. His second was a two-run shot in the top of the seventh to make it 12-6. Then he added a solo shot in the top of the ninth for good measure to put the exclamation point on a 16-7 victory. When all was said and done, Albert had gone 5-for-6 with 3 home runs, 6 RBI, and 14 total bases. All of those tying or setting a record for World Series game performance.

He was just the second player to record 5 hits in a World Series game, joining Paul Molitor who did it in 1982′s Game 1 against St. Louis for Milwaukee.

He became the third player to hit 3 home runs in a World Series game. The others, oh just Reggie Jackson in 1977′s Game 6 against Los Angeles, Babe Ruth in 1928′s Game 4 against St. Louis, and well Ruth again in 1926′s Game 4 against the same St. Louis team.

He became the third player to record 6 RBI in a World Series game, a record, joining Hideki Matsui in 2009′s Game 6 and Bobby Richardson in 1960′s Game 3.

He has the most total bases of any player in any World Series game at 14. Jackson and Ruth both put up 12 total bases in their 3 home run games, the closest anyone came to Pujols in that category.

He’s the only one to put it all together in a single game.

On Friday morning he was criticized for abandoning his team after a devastating ninth inning collapse. This was the type of game that Albert needed to put together. He has a way of dealing with criticism and being the reason his team lost the last game, and usually that way is not good for the other team.

Many in the baseball media are lauding the game as historic. And it was, when you look at the numbers. However, there are others in the sports media who don’t think it felt all that historic or legendary. I think that’s more a testament to what Pujols has done over the last 11 years of his career than to what he did last night.

To a point we’ve come to expect him to be this good. We expect him to be the legendary and amazing player who has been the best player in baseball over the last 10 years and when all is said in done will likely have one of the greatest careers of all time. He’s already in the same breath as Babe Turth,so when he does something that Ruth has done, it doesn’t feel as impressive as it otherwise would be.

While the last couple years for Albert have not been his best, and you can argue have been his worst, he reminds us that while he might not be as good as he once was, he can be as good once as he ever was (Thank you Toby Keith).

Last night Albert Pujols reminded us who he was. He gave us a glimpse of the player we’ve come to expect him to be and isn’t really anymore. There are times, when you watch him play every day, that you begin to forget just how special of a player Albert Pujols is and has been in his career.

I’ve been reminded. Have you?

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