St. Louis Cardinals

October 28, 2011 – World Series Game 7

The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers to claim their 11th World Championship on this date in 2011. Game 6 is the one burned into everyone’s memory, but that game wouldn’t have met anything had they not won game 7.

Games 1 and 2 were tight pitchers’ duels which the two teams split. Albert Pujols hit 3 home runs in game 3 to lead the Cardinals to a blowout win. After scoring 16 runs in game 3, Cardinals were shutout in game 4 behind 8 1/3 shutout innings from Derek “Dutch Stache” Holland. The Rangers again held the Cardinals’ offense in check to win game 5 by a score of 4-2, which set up game 6.

Game 6 is probably the most mind-numbing game in a season full of mind-numbing games. I watched it at my Dad’s house. I will never forget David Freese’s triple to tie the game in the 9th inning, which is probably the most electric Cardinals moment in my lifetime. I also remember Jon Jay’s key hit in extra innings, and scoring the tying run because he was one of my favorite players. Lance Berkman of course drove him in with two strikes. Freese’s home run in the 11th inning is still somewhat surreal when I see it.

A critical and probably underrated hit in that game was when Allen Craig homered off of Derek Holland in the bottom of the 8th inning. If Holland had shut out the Cardinals that inning, he may have pitched the 9th inning. He was the one pitcher who had shut down the Cardinals all series, except for this one inning. Instead of a 3 inning save for a championship, Neftali Feliz pitched the 9th inning and the rest is history.

All of that was game 6 though. This post is about game 7. My Dad had put his name into the lottery to buty tickets from the Cardinals before the World Series started. He was selected to buy tickets for game 7. The strangest thing was not knowing if there was even going to be a game 7 until nearly midnight the night before. After celebrating Freese’s home run, I remember telling my dad, “Well, I guess I better go pack!”

I took Friday afternoon off from work, and we drove down Friday afternoon. We stopped in Hannibal on the way down, and there were other Cardinals fans stopped at the same gas station, heading for the same destination. We got to the game about an hour before it was supposed to start. Sitting around us were families from all over the Midwest. There were a couple Rangers fans sitting in front of us. They were very cool, and everyone was great to them as well. People just talked baseball with them.

I was nervous that Chris Carpenter pitching on 3-days rest was not a good idea. The fears seem justified early on, when the Rangers scored 2 runs on back-to-back doubles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. The Cardinals immediately got the two runs back in the bottom of the first on a double by David Freese, that guy again. I remember the girl sitting behind us saying that the Cardinals were wearing the Rangers down with these constant comebacks. If that was true, I can’t blame them. It would take enormous mental strength not to get worn down by it.

The Cardinals added to the lead in the third inning on another solo home run by Allen Craig. In the bottom of the fifth inning, perhaps the mental fatigue started to set in for the Rangers. Scott Feldman came into the game in relief and walked Criag an hit Pujols with a pitch. The runners advanced on a groundout. Freese was then intentionally walked to load the bases. Yadier Molina then drew a walk to score a run, and then Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch to score another run. The Cardinals had a 3-run lead and the mood in the stadium was giddy.

Maybe the most surreal moment I’ve ever seen at a game was in the top of the 6th inning. Nelson Cruz came up with one out and hit a towering fly ball to left field. The crowd went silent for a few moments as the ball sailed toward the left field wall. We were sitting in the upper deck in left field, and the left field wall was the one blind spot for us of the field. The ball disappeared from our view, and I had assumed it was a home run. I remember thinking “Here we go again”, with the way all of the games had been so back and forth. Then suddenly all the other sections in the stadium roared. No one in our section cheered, we were all just kind of dumbfounded. Then they replayed the catch on the video board and then our section cheered.

In the seventh inning, the two Rangers fans sitting in front of us left. People congratulated them on a great season, but I would not be confident until the final out was recorded. Things got a little less tense as Molina drove in another run to make it a 6-2 in the bottom of the seventh. Lance Lynn redeemed himself with a scoreless eighth inning, and Jason Motte threw a scoreless ninth to win the game.

We stayed in our seats to watch the trphy presentation and interviews. Once that was all done we headed out of the ballpark. I was high-fived by 100 random strangers. It was the wildest thing I’ve ever seen, hundreds of people all high-fiving each other and all seemed so releived and excited. It took us forever to get out of downtown. Everyone was honking and yelling. I think we got back to the hotel at like 2AM.

Of course, I will always be a Cardinals fan, but the 2011 season and getting to see them win the World Series in person will probably never be topped. Anything they win after this will be gravy.

One weird, random observation. The tickets for the World Series each featured a picture of a generic player. Games 1 and 3 were of a pitcher. Games 2 and 4 were of a hitter. Games 5 and 6 were of a fielder starting to track a fly ball. Game 7 was of a fielder reaching up to catch a ball. The picture for game 7 is in the same exact pose as Allen Craig when he robbed that home run. Concidence? Skip Schumaker said of the championship, “It was destiny, there is no other way to explain it.


Allen Craig robs Nelson Cruz of a home run - Photo credit: Doug Pensinger Getty Images

Photo credit: Doug Pensinger

Here are the rest of the pictures I took from before, during and after the game:

Jon Jay catches a deep fly ball in game 6 vs the Brewers

October 16, 2011 – Cards close out Brewers

The St. Louis Cardinals faced off against their division rivals the Milwaukee Brewers. The rivalry had been simmering all season. It may have peaked back on August 2, when the Cardinals won a wild game involving controversy and ejections. After that, it seemed the two agreed to let their play settle things. This would be the final showdown.

Both teams were coming off of emotional 5-game series from the NLDS round. The Cardinals won a pitching duel for the ages 1-0. The Brewers had defeated the Diamondbacks 3-2 in 10 innings in game 5. They actually had blown a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth. They finally rallied in the 10th to win it. The game-winning hit was by Nyjer “Beast Mode” Morgan.

The Brewers won game one of the NLCS 9-6. The Cardinals actually led this game 5-2 at one point before the Brewers rallied for 6 runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rafael Betancourt all homered for the Brewers.

The Cardinals evened the series 1-1 with a 12-3 blowout. Seven different Cardinals pitchers combined to only allow 3 runs in the game. Jon Jay had 3 hits, and Albert Pujols had 4 including a home run. Yadier Molina, David Freese and Nick Punto each had 2 hits.

The Cardinals took game 3 in a much tigher game. They scored 4 runs in the bottom of the first, and that was it. The Brewers got two runs back in the second and one more in the third, but were shut out the rest of the game for a 4-3 Cardinals win.

The Brewers evened the series 2-2 with a 4-2 win in game 4. The Cardinals lead the game 2-0 early before the Brewers chipped away and got ahead. Randy Wolf threw 7 innings for the Brewers allowing the 2 runs on solo home runs by Allen Craig and Matt Holliday.

The Cardinals won game 5 by a 7-1 score. Jaime Garcia only pitched 4 2/3 innings but only allowed the one run. The bullpen was perfect. The offense was provided by Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina who each had 3 hits. The Cardinals were one win from the World Series but would have to win it on the road.

Game 6 was a slugfest that the Cardinals won 12-6. Each team hit three home runs. The Cardinals built a big lead early, building a 9-4 lead by the third inning. The biggest blow was probably David Freese’s 3-run home run in the first inning. Freese had 3 hits, and Molina, Pujols and Holliday each had 2 hits. The win was punctuated by Jon Jay’s jumping catch at the center field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The National League had won the All Star Game, so they were heading back to St. Louis for game 1 of the World Series.

Photo credit: Rob Carr, Getty Images

October 7, 2011: The Carpenter vs Halladay Game

The St. Louis Cardinals squared off against the Philadelphia Phillies in a playoff pitching duel that is still talked about today, and will be for some time.

The Cardinals forced this deciding game 5 by coming from behind to beat the Phillies in game 4. They trailed 2-0 after the top of the first inning, but then rallied to win 5-3. David Freese had a 2-run double in the 4th inning, and a 2-run home run in the 6th. That was the famous “rally squirrel” game.

Rafael Furcal led off the game. He worked a 2-1 count and then hit a triple to right-center field. The next batter was Skip Schumaker. He had the best at bat of the game for either team. He quickly got into an 0-2 hole. He then fouled off four pitches and took two more for balls. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, he doubled into the corner to score Furcal. It was the only run scored the entire game.

Halladay then settled down and started dominating. He threw 8 innings total, and only allowed 4 more hits after those first two batters. He struck out 7 and walked 1.

As brilliant as he was, Chris Carpenter out-dueled him. Carpenter threw a complete game shutout. He only allowed 3 hits, and no walks. Oddly, he only struck out 3 batters. He threw 110 pitches in the gem.

The Phillies threatened in the bottom of the fourth when Carpneter hit the leadoff batter with a pitch. Shane Victorino singled with two outs. The two runners were stranded when Carpenter got Raul Ibanez to flyout.

Victorino had also doubled in the second inning and was stranded. The only other Phillies hit was a single by Utley in the bottom of the 6th inning, but Utley was caught stealing.

The game ended with Ryan Howard grounding out to the second baseman. Howard injured his Achilles’ tendon coming out of the batter’s box and was unable to run to first. Howard ended up missing the next season as well recovering from the injury. It was a brutal way to end such a great game, even if you are a Cardinals fan.

You can watch the entire game here:

AP Photo/Mel Evans

October 2, 2011: Cards come back to win game 2 vs Phillies

The St. Louis Cardinals lost game one of the National League Division Series to the Phillies 11-6. The Phillies had a chance to push them to the brink of elimination in game two.

They got off to a good start by taking a 4-0 lead after two innings. Chris Carpenter was starting on short rest and it looked like a bad decision by Tony La Russa. He pulled Carpenter after three innings. The Cardinals’ bullpen came up big, throwing six shutout innings the rest of the game.

The Cardinals rallied for three runs in the top of the 4th inning to get back into the game. Lance Berkman led off with a walk. With one out, Yadier Molina singled. Ryan Theriot doubled in a run, and then Jon Jay singled in one more. Rafael Furcal singled in the third run and Jon Jay was thrown out at home trying to tie the game. Jay went in hard trying to dislodge the ball but Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz held on for the out.

The Cardinals finally did tie the game in the top of the sixth on a double by Theriot and a single by Jay. They took the lead in the sevethn on an Allen Craig triple, and a single by Albert Pujols. Jason Motte retired the Phillies in order in the bottom of the ninth to earn the save. The series was tied 1-1.

Box Score

Video Highlights

September 28, 2011 – One Of The Craziest Nights Of Baseball Ever

Four teams came into the last game of the season vying for two playoff spots. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves came into this final game of the season tied for the Wild Card spot. The Braves were on a four game losing streak, and their magic number was stubbornly stuck at two. Likewise, the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays came into the game tied for the American League Wild Card spot. Both the Braves and Red Sox were trying to avoid epic collapses, having led their races by 8.5 games and 9 games earlier in September.

The complicated thing was that none of these teams were playing each other. None of them controlled their own fate – they had to win and hope the team they were tied with lost. If both won or both lost, then there would be a one-game playoff. So all four teams were forced to scoreboard watch. The four key games on tap were:

  • Philadephia Phillies @ Atlanta Braves (6:10 Central start)
  • Boston Red Sox @ Baltimore Orioles (6:10 Central)
  • New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays (6:10 Central)
  • St. Louis Cardinals @ Houston Astros (7:05PM Central)

This was a Wednesday night. My dad and I got together at Buffalo Wild Wings where we could watch all four games simultaneously. It was a good choice. I just remember shifting attention from game to game as each reached a critical point.

How The Games Unfolded

Bizarrely, even though the Cardinals vs Astros game started an hour later than the other three games on the East Coast, it was the first game to end. It took them only 2 hours and 20 minutes to defeat the Astros 8-0. Chris Carpenter was brilliant, throwing a complete game 2-hitter. He had 11 strikeouts and only one walk for a 93 game score. David Freese provided some offense with two doubles and three runs scored. Allen Craig hit a solo home run in the ninth inning. Otherwise it was a balanced offensive attack with ten different Cardinals getting hits, with most of the damage done in the top of the first inning when they scored 5 runs.

After the win, the Cardinals stayed in the clubhouse in Houston to watch the Philles @ Braves game. If the Braves won, the Cardinals would have to fly to Atlanta for a one-game playoff. If the Phillies won, the Cardinals would fly to Philadelphia for game one of the National League Division Series.

This article has a good timeline of some of the other key events of the night:

10:23 p.m.: Evan Longoria hits a three-run homer to bring Tampa Bay to within 7-6 of the Yankees.

10:26: St. Louis completes an 8-0 trouncing of Houston and repairs to clubhouse televisions to watch the Braves.

10:47: Dan Johnson, hitting .108 — a number (without the decimal) considered sacred in many Eastern religions but an outright travesty in baseball — hits a game-tying home run for the Rays when they are down to their last strike.

10:58: The Red Sox resume their game in Baltimore after a long rain delay, a delay that now makes sense as the baseball gods setting this game aside for a bit — like allowing the dough to sit before baking — so that the Boston and Tampa Bay games could crescendo minutes apart.

11:28: Hunter Pence of Philadelphia, with the ugliest of swings producing the ugliest of hits, squibs a broken-bat single to put the Phillies ahead of the Braves, 4-3 in the 13th inning.

11:40: Freddie Freeman of Atlanta grounds into a double play, ending the game and eliminating the Braves.

11:59: Nolan Reimold of Baltimore, with the Orioles down to their last strike, ties the game with a ground rule double off Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon.

12:02: Robert Andino wins the game for Baltimore with a single. The Red Sox, as it turns out, have three minutes to live.

12:05: Longoria hits a home run off Scott Proctor to win the game for Tampa Bay.

There are some key details left out of the above timeline though. The Yankees built their 7 run lead with a grand slam by Mark Teixeira in the top of the second inning. Terixeria homered again in the top of the fourth.  Then Andruw Jones added a solo shot in the top of the fifth to put the Yankees up 7-0. Having such a big lead, the Yankees decided to pull many of their starting players to rest them. Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Teixeira were all replaced in the lineup with subs in the sixth and seventh innings. The Yankees had already clinched the division, so they were resting their players for the playoffs with the game seemingly in hand.

Dan Uggla gave the Braves a 3-1 lead over the Phillies with a 2-run home run in the bottom of the third inning. Right before Uggla hit the homer, Michael Bourn was thrown out trying to steal third base, or it would have been a 3-run homer.

The Red Sox threatened in the top of the ninth, getting three baserunners on an error, a single and a walk. However, Jim Johnson got out of the jam by getting Ryan Lavarnway to ground into a double play.

They posted the final score of the Red Sox @ Orioles game on the scoreboard in Tampa while Evan Longoria was at the plate. He had to step out of the batter’s box due to the crowd reaction to that Orioles score. Moments later, he hit a home run to win the game 8-7.

Insane Facts From This Night

This was the first time the Yankees had blown a 7 run lead in the 8th inning or later since 1953, according to this article.

The Red Sox were in first place on September 3rd, and had a 99.6% chance of making the playoffs. They were 9 games ahead of the Rays. Similarly, the Braves were 8.5 games ahead of the Cardinals in early September.

The Rays’ win percentage was down to 0.3% when they were down 7-0 in the eighth inning.

Check out these insane factoids about Dan Johnson:

Dan Johnson joined the Rays in 2008, and hit two home runs that season. The first of them was a game-tying blast against Jonathan Papelbon in this game.

Johnson played for the Yokohoma BayStars in 2009.

He returned to the Rays in 2010 and hit the grand total of seven home runs; one of them was a walkoff against the Red Sox.

Johnson has played with the Rays sparingly in 2011, and he’s hit only two home runs all season. The first was a ninth-inning shot that turned a 7-6 deficit into a 9-7 lead, and the Rays recorded their first victory — one they would desperately need, as things turned out — after opening the season with six straight losses. Johnson’s second home run of the season came in the bottom of the ninth inning in the Rays’ last victory, and pushed their chances of winning from less than five percent to more than fifty percent.

Some insane stats from You Can’t Predict Baseball:

Seven of the Red Sox last 10 games were against the Orioles, and they went 2-5 in those games.

The Red Sox were 77-0 when leading after 8 innings coming into this game. Now 77-1. Also, Robert Andino had burned Papelbon and the Red Sox before:

On September 20, the Orioles trailed 5-4 in the eighth inning with two outs and the bases loaded at Fenway, against Papelbon. Andino hit a three-run double, and the Orioles won 7-5. On September 26, Andino hit an inside-the-park home run to expand the Orioles’ lead from 3-2 to 6-2.

Other Sports Don’t Produce The Same Kind Of Drama

Days like this are why baseball is still the best sport. There is no equivalent to this in any other sport. The only one that comes close is the first two days of the NCAA tournament. That is a bit different though. With the NCAA tournament, each team controls their own fate. Win, and you advance, or lose and you are out. What happened on 9/28/2011 was more uncertain than that, and produced a lot more drama as a result. The fate of the four teams involved was partially at the mercy of how other games turned out. They had no control over how those other games ended. Win, and you still had to hope another team lost to advance. Otherwise, you could be headed for a one-game playoff with a very uncertain outcome. Likewise, your team could lose, and still get another shot if that other game turned out in your favor.

The fact that none of the teams ended up tied at the end of this night is surprising enough. Exactly how that happened is incredible, unbelievable or whatever other word you can think of. You could not have scripted the twists and turns of fate on this night if you tried.

The other reason baseball is unique is because there is no way to just run out the clock. You have to make a play to end the game. The Yankees couldn’t take a knee to run out the clock on the Rays. Baseball is situational. Every play happens within a context within the game. Then on top of that, these games were unfolding within the context of the entire season. The Rays’ entire season was one strike away from ending.

Here is a video with highlights recapping many of the key plays from the night:

Molina and Chambers celebrate - Photo from Getty images: Jeff Curry

September 24, 2011 – Marmol Blows Epic Save

Five days prior to this the Atlanta Braves lost to the Florida Marlins in bizarre fashion. The Braves led 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth. Craig Kimbrel was on the mound and got the first two outs. Chipper Jones then lost a high bouncing ground ball in the lights. Omar Infante then hit a walk-0ff 2-run home run to beat the Braves 6-5. That loss dropped the Braves’ wild card lead to a 1/2 game, but they rebounded to win two of their next three games, and cut their magic number to clinch the Wild Card spot down to 3.

The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals met in St. Louis on this day in 2011. The Cubs got an early 1-0 lead on three singles in the top of the first inning. That was all the offense the game would see until the ninth inning. Rodrigo Lopez held the Cardinals scoreless over six innings. Likewise, Kyle Lohse settled down after that first inning and did not allow another run through seven innings.

The ninth inning was bizarre. The Cubs brought in Carlos Marmol to try to save the game. He got Lance Berkman to fly out. Then Matt Holliday singled. Tyler Greene pinch-ran for Holliday and stole second base. The ball hit Greene as he was sliding into second and went into center field. He was able to take third on the play. The tying run was on third with one out.

David Freese then struck out swinging. Yadier Molina drew a walk. Adron Chambers pinch-ran for Molina. Skip Schumaker then drew a walk to load the bases. Ryan Theriot pinch-hit and drew yet another walk, forcing in a run to tie the game. Then with Rafael Furcal batting, Marmol threw a wild pitch and Chambers scored the winning run.

This was the second time Marmol had blown a save against the Cardinals this season. The first was back on June 5th.

The Braves’ lost 4-1 to the Washington Nationals, so the Cardinals’ elimination number stayed at three.

Here is video highlights of the bottom of the ninth:



Nick Punto celebrates his game-winning sacrifice fly. Photo: Chris Lee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

September 9, 2011 – Cards walk off vs Braves

Coming into this game, the Braves’ record was 84-60 and the Cardinals’ record was 76-67. A win would put the Braves up by 8.5 games, and a loss would drop their lead to 6.5 games. This is one of many games you could look back on as a turning point.

The Braves scored two in the top of the first inning on hits by Michael Bourn, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman.The Cardinals got one run back when they manufactured a run in the bottom of the first. A walk, a single and an RBI groundout by Matt Holliday made it 2-1.

Cardinals’ starter Edwin Jackson would settle down and not allow any runs the next five innings. Braves’ starter Randall Delgado would not allow any runs over the next four innings.

The score would stay 2-1 all the way until the ninth inning. In the top of the frame, the Braves scored a run on an RBI triple by Bourn off of Octavio Dotel. The Braves brought in Craig Kimbrel to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Skip Schumaker led off with a single. Kimbrel then got Nick Punto to ground out and Gerald Laird to strikeout. Down to their final out, Rafeal Furcal drew a walk. Ryan Theriot then pinch hit, and also drew a walk. The bases were loaded for Albert Pujols.

Pujols singled to drive in two runs to tie the game. There was a bobbled throw and Ryan Theriot tried scoring all the way from first on the single. He ran through a stop sign and was thrown out at home to end the inning. The damage was done and Kimbrel’s streak of 25 consecutive saves was snapped.

Jason Motte threw a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman led off the inning with singles. Daniel Descalso pinch hit for David Freese and laid down a bunt. Skip Schumaker was intentionally walked, setting up Nick Punto with the bases loaded. Punto hit a sac fly to win the game, and the Cardinals celebrated by tearing off Punto’s jersey.

River Bandits Advance in Midwest League Playoffs

The night before, the Quad Cities River Bandits beat the Clinton Lumberkings 5-3 to advance to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs. They had won game one of the best-of-three series 9-5 the night before.

In game one, Oscar Taveras had three hits and three RBIs. Jonathan Rodriguez had five RBI, three of which came on a 3-run home run in the first inning.

On the mound, Boone Whiting got the win with this line: 6IP, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 9K. Seth Maness, Aiden Lucas and Dean Kiekhefer allowed two runs over the last three innings to preserve the win.

The Bandits needed a comeback to win game two. Stefen Romero and Mike McGee each homered for the Lumberkings to give them a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, the Bandits got a walk, two doubles and two singles to score three runs and go up 4-3. They also added an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th before Kiekhefer again closed out the game with a scoreless ninth inning.