So we’ve played 162 and 7 teams have qualified for the dance. 21 teams have been sent home for the winter. And two teams will play a do or die game tommorow night in Denver in front of 50,000 crazy fans who may or may not have just discovered their home town had a team two weeks ago. The playoff preview will have to wait for tommorow when the field of 8 is finally set. How bout them Rockies. Everyone wants to talk about the Mets epic collapse. Don’t get me wrong, it was historic. But how about Colorado. Two weeks ago if you were a Rox fan you had to think…"Our only chance is to win em all" And for all intents and purposes that is what they did. 13-1 the final two weeks of the season to force a do or die one game playoff in front of their home crowd. Unreal. Tommorow night at 6:30 PM on TBS the Rockies will send Josh Fogg to the hill and he will oppose the reeling Padres’ ace Jake Peavy. The pitching matchup definately heavily favors San Diego, but the home field advantage and momentum favors the Rockies. Padres’ manager Bud Black made a controversial decision today to hold back ace Jake Peavy. Tony La Russa made the same move last season on the final day holding back Chris Carpenter. It worked for La Russa, it may have backfired on Black. Sure the Pads have Peavy going in the playoff tommorow, but they seem to me to be dead mean walking flying into Denver tommorow. Saturday afternoon they were set to clinch with Trevor Hoffman on the mound in the ninth. Then Tony Gwynn, Jr. of all people laces a triple to tie the game. Its tough to bounce back from that. Do yourself a favor and tune into this game. It is only the 7th one game playoff in baseball history.
Prediction: Rockies, 3 Padres, 2
Tommorow: I will recap the Rox/Friars playoff game and preview the AL Playoffs, Tuesday Night its the NL Preview, Then Wedensday the fun begins.
No, I did not go and jump off a building in September as the Cardinals proceeded to fold up like cheap lawn furniture. Honestly running a fantasy football league, work, and just plain apathy towards September baseball caused me to take a self imposed break from the blog. Just because the Redbirds will not be participating in the 2007 Postseason does not mean I can’t enjoy it. In fact I can probably enjoy the playoffs themselves more because I won’t have so much invested. That said before I jump into my 2007 pennant race/playoff thoughts let me tie up a few loose ends on the 2007 Redbirds.
It was obvious that the Rick Ankiel HGH scandal was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The Cards through smoke and mirrors fought hard to pull themselves back into the NL Central race, but the Ankiel scandal (which was total B.S. by the way) coupled with Rolen’s season ending injury, Duncan’s injury, Mulder’s ineffectiveness just put the team over the top. Bottom line is they completely ran out of gas after fighting to get so very very close to the top of the division. I am incredibly disappointed we won’t get a shot to defend our crown in October, but its for the best. Albert gets an extra month to get healthy and this team just plain wasn’t very good. Its time for a complete overhaul of the starting rotation (Wainwright excluded) and plug in some parts for the outfield. I’m not sure what to expect in 2008, but I am cautiously optimistic. Remember in 2004 after missing the 2003 playoffs the Birds re-tooled to win 105 games and the NL pennant.
Now then the fun part, I’m gonna re-tool the blog for the post-season a new name and a new format. Only for the playoffs though. Thats a Winner returns in February 2008. This will be all about the baseball post-season. The best playoff system in sports. Lets first look at the pennant races as we head down the final weekend. The NL East looks to be Philadelphia’s to lose. It should be interesting to see if the Amazin’s can get off the mat, but these look like 2 teams going in opposite directions. They both play bottom feeders in the NL East. I think Philly sweeps the Nats and wins the East without needing a play in game. In the Central as much as it kills me, and as much as they are trying to give it away the Cubs are gonna win this thing. The Cubs have given the Crew every opportunity the past two nights and their inability to get one of the last two has cost them the NL Central Title. The West is what will really be fun to watch. If the Rox sweep the D-Backs this weekend and win the West by winning their last 14 games in a row where would that rank on the list of all-time great comebacks? It isn’t even Arizona tanking…Its just a red hot Colorado team. Matt Holliday is my pick for NL MVP if they pull this off. Coors Field should be rocking this weekend like it hasn’t rocked since the days of the Blake Street Bombers in the mid-90’s That will be fun to see. As for San Diego they are lurking as well. There are some really outrageous tiebreaker scenarios that could play out next week. I’m the kind of person who cheers for mass hysteria so I’m really hoping for the four way tie. Think about this for a second. If the Mets, Phils, Rockies, and Padres all finish with identical records they would all have to go into essentially a double elimination tournament while the Cubs with anywhere from 4-6 less wins sit back and watch the carnage. How exactly does that seem fair? Anyway, check back next week for the new look blog and to all a Happy October.
Finally the Cards have made it back to .500 and Finally Rob has made it back to his blog. Lots of stuff going on, most important was drafting a fantasy football team Sunday. Pre draft strategizing was taking most of my down time so no time for a post. Now with the Cards back into 2nd place, back to only 2 games out of first, its time to get back to posting. So what did we have in the week I was gone. Well the Cards suffered a mini-skid with a two game losing streak losing Thursday and Friday against Florida and Atlanta before bouncing back to take the final two against the Braves. Today the Cards started the final stretch of the season, a trecherous 35 game 34 day stretch to end the season. Chris Duncan busted out of his slump HUGE today with a 3 run bomb in the first inning and driving in 4. Tony La Russa tied Red Schoendist for the most wins in Cardinals history at 1041. Braden Looper was outstanding pitching 7 shutout innings. Tony La Russa has said all year we can’t talk about the pennant race til we get to .500. Well we’re here, and hopefully we aren’t below it again this year. Keep pushing, keep winning, first place could be ours as soon as Thursday. Unbelievable. I declared the Cardinals dead on August 5th. I was absolutely correct. That Cardinal team died on August 5th. The team that couldnt get clutch hits. The team that couldn’t pitch. The team that had no heart. They were replaced the next day in St. Louis by a team that was relentless. A team that refused to lose. A team that isn’t going down without a fight. A team proud to defend their World Championship. Since August 5 the Cards are 13-6 and have made up 6 games of their 8 game deficit. The Cards have made the crazy run they needed to get back in it. Now they just need to be a little bit better than Chicago. I think they can, and I think they will.
Is this fun or what? This team just flat out refuses to lose right now. 8 of their last 10 and 11 of their last 15. All of this following the last rites administered on August 5th. Its a combination of things that have sparked this Redbird resurgence. For one its the starting pitching stupid. The Starters have turned in 12 quality starts in those 15 games. Everyone is pitching well. We are also getting tons of breaks. We got every possible break in Milwaukee. Last night Hanley Ramirez committed a throwing error in the bottom of the 8th which caused Armando Benitez to go down in flames. Tonight after the seemingly demoralizing performance by the usually reliable Ryan Franklin the Cards came right back answering the Marlins 3 run 7th with one of their own capped off with a huge 2 run homer by Jim Edmonds. Jason Isringhausen has been lights out pitching 4 scoreless innings in the last 3 games to pick up 3 saves. Albert has heated up homering tonight for the fifth consecutive game. Everything is clicking and tommrow with a win the Cards can say something they haven’t said since an April 16th loss to Pittsburgh. We are a .500 ballclub. The Cardinals do have a rough go of it after Monday as due to make up games they will play 35 games in 34 consecutive days. The good thing however is that 22 of the next 32 are at Busch. The stretch drive is here folks, and miraculously with 39 to play the Cards are right in the thick of it. Another exciting September in the Gateway City…could it be another exciting October as well?
What is it about that 90 year old dump that causes the Cards so much heartbreak? That place is definately Redbird Kryptonite. In Milwaukee everything that could go right did go right. We got timely hitting, we got all the breaks, we got outstanding starting pitching. At Wrigley it has been the exact opposite. Maybe its Wrigley, and maybe its Juan’s return to the lineup. Ankiel will be back in there tonight in what has to be classified as a must win for the Redbirds. Everything has gone wrong in the previous two days. Basically the problem has been is the Cubs homers have come with men on base, ours have been solo shots. Anthony Reyes was outstanding yesterday but threw one bad pitch. Unfortunately as has happened so many times for Anthony this year it came with the bases loaded. We got completely hosed on a call at home (see picture above) where Pujols was CLEARLY safe, but was called out by the incompetent home plate umpire. The Cards have to put all that behind them though and go out and win these last two games. Period. No whining, no crying, just results. A split is perfectly acceptable and at Wrigley it would seem like a series win. Now however the Cards will be forced to fight back for the split by beating arguably the NL’s best pitcher in Carlos Zambrano tonight, and then face a guy who has killed them this year in Ted Lilly Monday. Kip will get the ball tonight and I actually like that for a change. Kip has been money lately and will have to be strong again tonight. Joel Pineiro gets the ball for the Cards Monday and he too has been outstanding lately. We’ve gotta win these last two games, If we don’t everything that happened in Milwaukee is irrelevant.
In 1978 as the New York Yankees completed one of the more improbably 2nd half surges to overtake the Boston Red Sox and eventually win the AL East and then the World Series they completed what will forever be known by Sox and Yanks fans as the "Boston Massacre" The Yanks went to Fenway and playing 4 games in 3 days they beat the Sox 15-3, 13-2, 7-0, 7-4. Fast forward 29 years to 2007. Let it be known that these three games in Milwaukee shall henceforth be known as the Milwaukee Mauling. The Cards came, they saw, and they kicked the Brewers’ (tail). 12-4, 8-3, 8-0. The Brewers might now be the first team in history that is still in first place that I would classify as "done". The Cards are now surging playing their best ball of the year. Since I officially declared the Birds dead back on August 5th the Cards have won 8 of 10 including their last 5. They have now 9 consecutive quality starts from their rotation. EVERYTHING is clicking with this team. It seems to coincide with the departures of Adam Kennedy and Juan Encarnacion. Coincidence? I think not. Here is something to chew on…Could this Cardinal team actually be one that is built for October. Adam Wainwright is now pitching like a bonafide ace. Mark Mulder will be back and if he is the old healthy Mark Mulder he also is a solid number one. Kip Wells has done a complete 180 throwing quality outings everytime out. Joel Pineiro has been nails since coming over from Boston. Anthony Reyes has also been dealing lately. Braden Looper has been awesome. The Cardinals now seem to have a surplus of GOOD starting pitching. Unreal. Looper will likely return to the pen in September when Mulder returns which makes the best bullpen in baseball even better. Izzy, Percival, Springer, Franklin, Looper, Johnson, and Flores. The Cardinals won’t blow any leads. Rolen is hitting, Edmonds is hitting, everything is coming together. Just like Christ himself the Cardinals died on August 5th and came back 3 days later. Lets keep the momentum rolling into Chi-Town!
For the past seven seasons one thing has been constant in the National League Central Division. That is the St. Louis Cardinals (save for 2003) finishing on top of it. They are still the most intimidating team for NL Central squads to face due to their decade of dominance. So it stands to reason that as the Cards appear poised to make their move the two front runners Milwaukee and Chicago who are two teams not accustomed to winning could be hearing footsteps. The hard charging Cardinals following their 12-4 victory tonight now only stand 4 1/2 games out of first place and an amazing 3 games out in the loss column. How is this possible? An heavy dose of youth along with a sudden solid pitching staff. Tonight Kip Wells turned in the rotations 7th straight quality starts. Rick "The Stick" Ankiel and Brendan Ryan have come up and replaced useless wastes of space Juan Encarnacion and Adam Kennedy. The bullpen has remained solid. And of course it doesn’t hurt that neither the Brewers or Cubs want to win this thing. This is only one game on a critical 7 game roadie. But its nice to get off on the right foot with a big win over the Brew Crew. This Cardinals still 4 games UNDER .500 could be in first place when the trip is over. While that is highly unlikely it is certainly concievable that the Cards could pull to within 2 or 3 games by next Monday. Unbelievable. Either way somehow some way this team that isn’t very good at all (did you see that Morbid) looks like they will play meaningful games in September. Something that looked impossible just about a week and a half ago.