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Reactions: Cardinals Run Away With Game 3, Lead World Series 2-1

October 23, 2011

Albert Pujols led the Cardinals to a 16-7 win agains the Texas Rangers in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series.

The Cardinals gained back momentum in the best-of-seven World Series with a grand 16-7 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 3 Saturday night.
Albert  Pujols once again proved that he is the best player of his generation. 5-6, 3 homeruns, 6 runs batted in, 4 runs scored. Add ’em up, and King Albert had a hand in ten of the Cardinals 16 runs in an offensive explosion for the ages.
When talking after the game about where Albert’s night ranked as a World Series performance all-time, Tony LaRussa said: “There it is, the greatest night in World Series history… And we saw it.” Pujols’ joins the great Babe Ruth and Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson as the only players ever to hit three home runs in a single World Series game. This performance definitely did the talking for the slugger. No interview was needed.
Not to be overlooked in this game was the performance of catcher Yadier Molina. Yadi quietly came through with four runs batted in of his own, along with spectactular defensive play behind the plate.
Almost everyone contributed on offense for the Redbirds in this 16-run outburst, including Allen Craig who hit a solo 1st inning home run to get things start. But one defensive play that may have saved the game for the Cardinals was Matt Holliday’s putout double play at home to end an offensive threat from the Rangers, preserving a 2-run lead that quickly grew. It was a huge momentum shift in the game.
Lance Lynn came up big out of the bullpen for the Cardinals, recording seven big outs while allowing only 1 run. Tony LaRussa put his trust in his young reliever and he came through. So while the Rangers used five pitchers out of the bullpen extensively, Saint Louis should have everyone available for Game 4 with the exception of Lynn and possibly Fernando Salas.
Looking forward to Game 4, if either team can get a quality start out of the #4 starter, it would be an obviously huge advantage. You’ve got to expect both offenses to be ready to roll again tonight. But thinking back to the NLDS, Carp showed that it is possible as a pitcher to rise above the talent of the opposing lineup and impose your will on them. If Texas doesn’t get a length start from Derek Holland, they are in serious trouble. As mentioned earlier, Texas’ bullpen is running low on gas. They cannot afford another night like last night. Cards starter Edwin Jackson will need to keep the ball down and control the counts in order to have a successful evening.
Great quote from Lance Lynn on Albert: “It was fun to watch him do what he did tonight, and just to be a teammate of his when he did something like that. That’s something I’m going to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I actually witnessed that in person.”
The chess match between the two managers has been closely followed. The most interesting thing to watch tonight is how Ron Washington approaches Albert Pujols. Will he pitch around him and risk the 4-5-6 hitters coming through with him already on base. Or will he remain aggressive and go right after him? It’s not a bad situation to be in for the Cardinals.
Game 4 is definitely a must-win for the Rangers with Cards ace Chris Carpenter set to start on Monday night in Game 5. Texas is playing tonight with all of the pressure on them. By now, Saint Louis is accustomed to playing big games. This is the first adversity the Rangers have faced.
The Cardinals have been defying odds for the past two months. All of the national pundits who predicted a Rangers sweep must be scratching their heads. The momentum has shifted back in the Cardinals direction. A Cards win in Game 4 could provide the knock-out blow to the Texas Rangers.
Thanks for reading.

Reactions: Cards Head to Texas With World Series Tied 1-1

October 21, 2011

Chris Carpenter dives into first base to secure an out in the first inning of Game One.

The Cardinals head to Arlington with the series all knotted up, after winning Game 1 by a score of 3-2 and dropping Game 2 in the final inning by the score of 2-1 . The World Series excitement is here and both teams have had their share of success.

With all of the offense expected in this series, it has been very suprising that through two games there has only been a total of 8 runs scored. But this should definitely change in the hitter friendly Rangers Ballpark.

Allen Craig is proving that he belongs as an everyday starter in the big leagues. Two nights, two clutch hits off of Ogando, one of the best relievers in the business. The Cardinals look to get a big boost in Texas with the presence of Craig’s bat in the lineup, as he will either DH or take over right field and allow Lance Berkman to DH in the American league style game.

The Cardinals starting pitching has been superb through the first two contests. Both Carp and Jaime have held the potent Rangers lineup in check. Tough luck for Jaime who went seven scoreless innings but did not receive a win.

Both managers have received their fair share of criticism. Tony LaRussa outwitted Ron Washington in Game 1. Wash didn’t utilize his two best bats off the bench, and his move of bringing in Ogando didn’t pay off (and didn’t once again in Game 2), as Craig came in cold off the Cards bench and produced the Game 1 winning RBI. Tony pushed all the right buttons with his bullpen as they did a phenomenal job of shutting the Texas hitters down.

The ninth inning was rough on Thursday night. Nothing seemed to go right for the Cardinals. It definitely was not Tony’s fault. Everyone should share the blame, and keep their heads high, because this tragic ending reminded us of how quick a game can change and how it only takes one or two mistakes to give away a game. Motte came in to try and finish the game off. A bloop single got the leadoff runner on, and that was followed up by the only solid hit of the inning. Then came the most interestingly bad play of the night. Elvis Andrus shot a ball out to Jay in centerfield. No outs. A runner, Kinsler, on second. The throw comes in a little off line as the lead runner holds up at third. And Albert Pujols, in position, fails to cut it off, allowing Andrus to coast into second.

You know the rest of the story. Tony goes to the bullpen. Rhodes gives up a fly ball. Kinsler tags and scores. Andrus tags and advances to third. Lynn comes in and gives up a fly ball. Andrus scores. Next batter, grounder to Descalso at third for the final out of the inning.

Who does the blame go to? I don’t know if there is a definite answer to this question. It’s tough to place it on Motte. Yes, he wasn’t effective. But looking at his performance, he gave up one bad pitch that was drilled for a single. Arthur Rhodes and Lance Lynn came in and sent their three batters down in order. The only problem: 2 of the outs came via fly balls that allowed the sacrifice.

In my opinion, the blame should be placed on Albert. And it’s not just for the reason you’d expect. Sure, it probably would’ve kept the score tied if he had cut of Jay’s throw from centerfield. But the ninth inning did not need to matter. Jaime Garcia pitched the game of his life. No runs, seven innings. Albert, the Cards superstar, and the rest of the NL-leading offense needed to back Jaime with more run support. It’s not like Nolan Ryan made a comeback and pitched in this game. The Cardinals simply needed to capitalize on offense. You should never expect to win a game, nonetheless a World Series game, when you score only one run.

This was a tough one to take as a die-hard Cards fan. But you’ve got to take this time to appreciate the run the hometown team has been on. No one expected the Cards to still be playing. Not even the most optimistic Cardinals fans could have honestly predicted this. If the club comes up short, we have nothing to be ashamed of.

But while we’re here, why not win it? The series has yet to be decided. Go in and make a statement in Game 3 and the momentum is back on our side.

Thanks for reading.

John Mozeliak: The Real NLCS MVP

October 18, 2011

The trade doesn’t look so bad now. When the Cards pulled off this unexpected trade with the Toronto Blue Jays before the trading deadline, few knew what to think of it. The CF of the future and some struggling members of the ‘pen were shipped away for a rental starter, an aging outfielder, and two bullpen arms. Mozeliak proclaimed that the move was to “win now”. And although the new Cardinals didn’t get off to the best starts with the club, their value has been crucial. Without Ejax, Rzep, and Dotel, the Cards would not have even started this unbelievable pennant run. Add in Furcal and Rhodes picked up in seperate deals around the same time, and Mozeliak looks like a genius. Colby went off to Toronto and hit below the Mendoza line for the rest of the year. Meanwhile, TLR could now move McClellan to the bullpen, Ejax into the starting 5, and Rzep, Dotel, and Rhodes into the achilles heal of a bullpen we had at that point. Furcal took over immediately at short in place of Ryan Theriot and has made a huge impact, both offensively and defensively. And who would’ve thought that the main reason we advanced to the 2011 World Series was our bullpen? The bullpen pitched 4 1/3 more innings than the starters against Milwaukee. And they shut Prince and Co. down. Furcal has been a sparkplug at leadoff all postseason long. And although Edwin Jackson has struggled in the postseason, he proved to be a difference maker down the stretch going on a 5-2 streak. Props to Mozeliak, who says he didn’t even expect it to be this good. 4 more wins to get 11 in 11. Looking back at this ten years from now, how ironic would it be if this was one of the best trades ever made by this club?

2011 World Series: Could it get any better for Cards fans?

October 18, 2011

The St. Louis Cardinals celebrate at Miller Park in Milwaukee after clinching their NL record 18th pennant.

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. Don’t tell me you saw it coming. This historic run your Saint Louis Cardinals have been on for the past almost 2 months is truly as unbelievable as the Cubs ever winning a championship again. As I wrote in a post at the end of August, I had given up all hope for the Cardinals getting into the playoff bracket this year. I pronounced it was time to give Tyler Greene a shot. Rafael Furcal obviously wasn’t the option at shortstop. Were Albert’s good years behind him? Could the bullpen even beat a Triple A team? All of these things, however embarrassing now it is to admit, swirled through my head after the Cards got whalloped by the LA Dodgers in an inexplicable sweep. I wrote that the Cardinals would not make the playoffs, barring a “miracle”. 
But then something happened. That something being as close to a miracle finish as you might ever see in the world of sports. The Cardinals gained traction and slowly but surely got back into the race, not in the division but rather the wild card. 8 games back. 6 games back. 4 1/2 games back. 3 1/2 games back. Atlanta kept losing. The Cards kept winning. The Cards snuck in. As the huge underdog against Philly in the NLDS, we shocked the baseball world by taking them down in the 5th game, at their park against their #1A ace. Moving on to the NLCS, the Cards couldn’t get one start that lasted more than 5 innings, and yet TLR and the bullpen, with the help of a surging offense, advanced the Cardinals in 6 games.
So here we are. The 2011 World Series. Our hometown team is in the biggest spotlight baseball has to offer. Once again, the Cards are the underdog. But why shouldn’t they be? The Cards have been playing playoff intensity baseball for two months. They are defying odds every game they win. TLR kept the fire lit in his guys and even though there were struggles, this club never gave up. TLR has loosened up, or so it seems. The clubhouse culture looks great. We’ve got TortyCraig, Allen Craig’s tortoise, and the Rally Squirrel, to keep things loose. The players are having fun. The club has grabbed hold of the underdog label. There’s no pressure on them; they weren’t supposed to be here anyway. This relaxed attitude has been working well. The Cardinals have won 30 of their last 43 games, so what’s not to think they’ll keep it rolling against the Texas Rangers? Cardinal Nation will be watching closely to see if this team can conclude this magical run with a storybook ending.
Game Schedule:
G1 -10/19: 7:05 @ STL
G2 -10/20: 7:05 @ STL
G3 -10/22: 7:05 @ TEX
G4 -10/23: 7:05 @ TEX
G5* -10/24: 7:05 @ TEX
G6* -10/26: 7:05 @ STL
G7* -10/27: 7:05 @ STL


Rams Open Season With 7 Receivers

September 6, 2011

Throughout training camp and the preseason schedule, the most intriguing positional battle in St. Louis was at wide receiver. Over the weekend, the Rams trimmed their roster to 53 players, cutting nearly 20 players including Mardy Gilyard and Donnie Avery. Instead of focusing on who did not make the team, let’s take a look at the receivers who did make the team:

Danny Amendola: Amendola’s job was never in doubt being as though he was the Rams go-to guy last season and he flourished catching passes from Sam Bradford. He will mostly be used in the slot and might occasionally receive the ball on end-around reverses.

Mike Sims-Walker: Sims-Walker came to the Rams via free agency after his stint with Jacksonville. SW has caught 14 touchdowns the past two seasons despite being hampered by injuries. He will probably become one of Sam Bradford’s favorite targets along with Amendola. His red zone presence will create matchup nightmares for opposing teams.

Brandon Gibson: Gibson impressed during the second half last season after the injury to Mark Clayton. He ended the year with over 600 yards receiving and could be set for a breakout year in 2011. He is a good secondary option for the Rams.

Greg Salas: Salas was drafted in the 4th round out of Hawaii and was impressive during the preseason. His best performance came in Tennessee, when he teamed up with Thad Lewis to march the Rams into field goal territory.

Austin Pettis: Pettis was drafted in the 3rd round out of Boise State. He was almost invisible during preseason play, but the Rams don’t want to give up on his talent after just five weeks of practice. He will have to prove himself on the practice field if he wants to see significant playing time.

Danario Alexander: Danario has be oft-troubled by his knees. When he plays he has an impact on the game, as seen last year. He can be the deep threat the Ram have been lacking for the past few seasons. But this is somewhat of a gamble by Spags. It’s hit or miss.

Chris Chamberlain: Chamberlin made the roster last season, but mainly plays as a special teams superstar. Although he’s listed as a receiver, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t catch a pass all year. But he can still have a huge impact on the team.

These are the seven for now. Things will become interesting once again when Mark Clayton is fully recovered from his injury. There’s no doubt Clayton would take over someone’s roster spot, and if he can play as well as he did before the injury last season, he will be a nice mid-season upgrade for this team.


Cardinals Stun Brewers, Sweep Series

September 2, 2011

St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday, right, gets a high-five from teammate Albert Pujols after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

If you would have told me the Cardinals would go into Milwaukee and sweep the 3-game set, I probably would have laughed. Before the Cardinals latest stop to play the Brew Crew, Milwaukee had won 50 of their 66 home games already played. The Brewers had only lost two in a row at home one time the entire series. Now they can’t say that. The Cardinals came in and dominated the three-game series, even the finale in which the Cards’ sent just-called-up pitcher Brandon Dickson to the mound to start the game. The Cardinals offense outscored Milwaukee 18-8. The Cardinals received quality starting pitching, with the exception of the final game, in which Dickson decent but not necessarily effective. The St. Louis bullpen was spectacular. The Cards hit four home runs in one game, and hit grand slams on back-to-back days. All this leaves Cardinal fans with one, unanimous question: “Why couldn’t this have happened three weeks ago?” The Cards, even after the series sweep, remain 7.5 games behind Milwaukee in the National League Central. While Milwaukee won 21 games in August, the Cardinals went 15-13. Not bad, but not good enough to win a division. But a recent power surge by the Cardinals has led St. Louis to 6 wins in the last 7 games. It may be just a little to late, but its at least nice to see life from the Cardinals ballclub. And, if your glass is half full, win another three games series with Milwaukee starting Monday at Busch Stadium and we’ve got a race. That is, if the Cards take care of business this weekend against the Reds, while the Brew Crew travel to Houston to battle the Astros. It may not be the ideal situation, but if the Cardinals win their weekend set with Cincinnati, Busch Stadium will be packed and loud next week. With 25 games remaining in the regular season, Cardinal fans who had just recently detached themselves from their postseason aspirations are starting to think a miracle might just happen.


Rams Beat Jaguars, Finish Preseason 4-0

September 2, 2011

Sam Bradford is pressured during the first quarter in Jacksonville. (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)

The Rams finished their preseason in fine fashion Thursday night, getting a win on the road in Jacksonville by the score of 24-17. The first team offensive unit played the first quarter, and then were pulled, giving way to the backups. Sam Bradford had a great quarter, throwing for 133 yard and one touchdown before A.J. Feeley came in to take his place. Steven Jackson only racked up 7 yards on three carries, but showed nice burst on a 27-yard screen pass. Although it’s only the preseason and the games don’t really count, the momentum from the past four games will lead into the meaningful schedule. “The big thing is, we made it out of the preseason largely healthy and guys were able to put in great work. The record doesn’t carry over, but the work we put in does,” said defensive end Chris Long. The Rams’ defensive starters had a successful night, and didn’t surrender a single score to the Jaguars through the first quarter. Then, like the offensive starters, the first team got the rest of the night off. By far the biggest suprise for the Rams throughout the preseason, Lance Kendricks once again had a productive night at tight end. He totaled 83 yards receiving, including one touchdown, and also did an adequate job on his blocking assignments. “It was nice to go out there and catch a few passes, get some looks that we really haven’t seen much,” Kendricks said. “I think going out there tonight and kind of keeping that rhythm was good.” Screen plays definitely were working against the Jacksonville defense. The Rams had two on the night that totaled more than twenty yards. “One of the things that I was particularly happy to see tonight was our screen game,” Bradford said. “It’s something that we just really kind of struggled with early in the preseason. So to see some of those go was really nice.” After the starters exited the contest, intrigue remained due to the undecided roster spots on both sides of the field. Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who played for Mizzou and is a Parkway West grad, had a decent night with 132 yards passing in the second half. It seems as though he will be the Jaguars second string quarterback, behind veteran David Garrard. The Rams will have some tough decisions to make before 3 p.m. local time on Saturday. The current Rams roster of 80 must be trimmed down to 53. The positions most affected by these cuts will be linebacker, wide receiver, and surpisingly quarterback. Sam Bradford has a choke-hold on the number one quarterback slot, but it is a topic of intrigue as to how many quarterbacks the Rams will keep on the roster. Veteran A.J. Feeley has done nothing to disappoint throughout the preseason, but Thaddeus Lewis is giving him a run for his money. Lewis completed 12 of his 15 passes against the Jaguars for 164 total yards through the air. The Rams may be forced into keeping three quarterbacks due to the impressive play from all three. But this morning, on 101.1 ESPN radio in St. Louis, fans were reminded that the quartback competition doesn’t really matter, because, if Sam goes down, “we’re screwed anyway”. Sam Bradford has come along way to quiet his critics who laughed at the Rams for taking him number one overall. Sam Bradford is to the Rams what Michael Jordan once was to the Bulls. Bradford is the face of the Rams’ franchise, and for the team to win, Sam has to be on the field. And we can feel could putting our trust in faith in Bradford this year, being as though last year he played every offensive snap. This weekend we will find out who the Rams will keep for Sam to throw to, and who will shape up the Rams’ linebacker core, as many dreams will be either achieved or crushed. Spagnuolo and his staff have a lot of evaluating to do.