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The Wild Cards (The Nickname of the 2011 Cardinals)

Poste by JE Powell

Wow. One, little, simple word, but it sums up what is, in this writer’s opinion, one of the greatest endings to a baseball season ever. woW. There, I wrote the word backwards and it still has the same impact, even if it looks a little weird.

I must confess, back in late August I had wrote the Cardinals off. Now, to be absolutely clear, I did not (nor would I ever, even in the worst of times) stop watching and paying attention to my beloved Cardinals. But conventional wisdom (which I admittedly stole from a M*A*S*H episode) is that a team can pick up a game a week. The Cards were 10 1/2 with about six weeks to play. I even commented to a co-worker in late August that the Cards would have to go 23-8 in September (which only has 30 days in that month, so how the Cards would play one more game than there are days in that calender month, I do not know) and at that time Atlanta was playing pretty well. Stictly from anecdotal evidence, I think most Cardinals fans felt that the Cards were not playing like a playoff team and were more than like NOT going to make the playoffs. I am often wrong, but I cannot remember a time when I have been so happy to have been wrong.

In 2006 I had a mantra all season long that continued down to the last day of the season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.”

“But the Cardinals have had two eight game losing streaks and a seven game losing streak and even got beat by nearly 20 runs by the Chicgo White Sox,” I had someone say to me.

“The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs,” I replied. Over and over again I said it. Every Cubs fan was rubbing it in, even though the Cubs finsihed 30 games under .500 that season. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” And in 2006, they did. By 1 1/2 games over the Houston Astros and the Cards ended the sesaon with a nearly pitiful 83-78 record. I think that was the 2nd worst record of a playoff team ever (the 2005 Padres finished 82-80 and won their division). I kept the faith, as it were. But 2011 was different.

This season, it didn’t look like the Cards would make the playoffs. They were not playing very well and they had seemingly too far back to make the playoffs. But then something happened. I don’t know what happened, but something obviously did. They started winning and Atlanta started losing. All through September the Cardinals kept winning and the Braves kept losing. The Cards swept the Braves in a three games series and picked up three games towards the Wild Card. In fact, I think the 2011 Cardinals need a nickname like the 1934 Cardinals “Gas House Gang” and I present to you, my faithful reader, the 2011 Cardinals “The Wild Cards”. It just fits. It’s nearly perfect, if a bit on the nose, I guess. But it sums up everything nicely. On the last day of the regular season, the Cards beat Houston 8-0 and the Braves lost to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings. The Cards were in.

But really, what were they going to do? They had to face a Phillies team that won 102 games and had what many predicted would be one of the best starting pitching rotations ever. No way the Cards are going to beat Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, or Roy Oswalt three times. “The Cardinals just have to make the playoffs.” The 2006 and 2011 Cardinals proved that that mantra is one that every Cardinals fan should keep in mind. Because once the playoffs start anything can happen. Case in point, the 2011 Cardinals. In the NLDS (National League Division Series) the Cards were down 2-1 in the series and had to face Roy Oswalt and then Roy Halladay. The Cards won game 4 to tie the series and then Chris Carpenter beat Roy Halladay 1-0 in one of the best pitching duels I have ever seen. NLDS Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals moved on, beating a team that many prediccted would win the World Series, to face the Milwaukee Brewers, a teamt he Cardinals haven’t faced in the playoffs since 1982 (when I was merely a year old). Nyjer Morgan, or Tony Plush, or whatever silly name he wants to give himself, made some silly comments (back in September) towards the Cardinals about them watching the Milwaukee Brewers on TV while Cards players sat at home. I love it when opposing players get cocky against the elder statesmen Cardinals. The Cardianls team, much to their credit, shrugged it off and did not retaliate. At least not with words. They did it with their bats and their bullpen. The Cards split in Milwaukee the first two games and then won on the road in Milwaukee (the toughest home team in all of baseball this year) to clinch a spot in the World Sereis. I certainly hope Nyjer Morgan enjoyed watching the Cardinals play in the world series. I am sure he has a very large, nice TV with high-def and could see everything nice and clear.

The World Series this year wasn’t the best played World Series, but damn was it entertaining. And Historic (with a capital “H”). The Cards won game one, then dropped game two in the top of the ninth inning when Texas scored two runs to take a 2-1 lead in the game. They headed to Texas for game 3. An Historic game because of one man, the true Prince of Baseball, Mr. Albert Pujols. Game 3 of the world series was a Wild (Cards) game, to say the least, but Albert Pujols put on, quite possibly the greatest offensive show you will ever see in the World Series. Sure, players have hit 3 home runs in a WS game (Ruth, twice, and Reggie Jackson), had 5 hits (Paul Molitor) and 6 RBI (Hideki Matsui) and 4 runs scored. But from what the experts said no one has ever had 3 HR, 4 Runs, 5 Hits, and 6 RBI…IN THE SAME GAME! Historic. When I saw Albert hit his first homerun, as soon as he made contact I said out loud, “It’s gone.” Just matter of factly. The sound of the ball off of a Cardinals bat in the WS is beautiful. Just Beautiful.

The Cards then dropped games 4 and 5 went to the Texas Rangers and the Series headed back to St. Louis with the Cards down 3 games to 2. I felt that whoever won game five would win the series. In game 6, when Texas went up 7-4 I thought, well, the Cards put in a hell of a season and the Rangers were definately a worthy adversary, my hats off to them. I kept watching, hoping for a miracle. I need to pause for just a moment to explain something. When the Cards fall behind or it looks like they are going to lose, I just assume they will. My reason is that if something great happens, it all the more great becasue I didn’t expect it, but if they do lose, at least I am not as dejected as I would have otherwise been. It’s a sort of defense mechanism. I didn’t give up, but I was kind of protecting myself, I guess.

So, the Cards are down 7-4 in game 6 when Allen Craig hit a solo shot to pull the Cardinals within two. Flashforward to the bottom of the ninth. 7-5, Cards sill behind. Pujols on 2nd, Lance Berkman on 1st. David Fresse up to bat. Has there ever been a more appropriate surname for a player in the history of baseball? David Freese had ice running through his veins. He gets ahead in the count 3-2, the Cards have two outs and are down to their last strike and that beautiful sound again, the ball of a Cardinal bat. A two run triple. Game tied.

Top of the 10th, one on and Josh Hamilton is up to bat. He swings at a ball a little low and outside and sends the ball over the fence for a two run home run. I texted my friend and fellow Cardinals fan (he is also the “official” STL: Fear the Red photographer, though I don’t post many pics) and said, “What was the point of the Cardinals tying the game up just to give the lead right back?” The Cardinals go to bat in the bottom of the 10th behind by two. Back to back hits, a bunt, and a ground out make it 9-8 Texas with two outs and the Cardinals have a player in scoring position. Lance Berkman gets up to bat and falls behind 1-2 in the count. Once again, the Cardinals are down to their last strike. If Berkman swings and misses the Rangers are champs. Oh, look at that, a single THE GAME IS FREAKING TIED AGAIN!!!! At this point I am curled up in a fetal position unable to take the drama any longer. OK, not really, but I was in my head, at any rate.

In the top of the 11th the Tony La Russa sends out Jake Westbrook to pitch, who hasn’t pitch in like a month. I’m thinking, oh no. But, oh yes, he holds them and keeps the game tied. Bottom of the 11th and up to bat is David “Absolute Zero” Freese. I say “Absolute Zero” because his veins are so ice cold that all molecular activity has stopped and he is no longer human. With one swing of the bat, a walk off home run, Absolute Zero has transcended baseball and become a Cardinals legend. I know with metaphysical certitude that one day when my baby daughter is older I will relive that moment over and over and over again as a bed time story. It was the greatest moment in my Cardinals lifetime, beating out Wainwrights curve to Carlos Beltran.The Cards made history for the 2nd time in the WS becoming the first team to come back from a two run deficit TWICE in the 9th inning or later. The also became the first WS team to score in the 8th, 9th, 10, and 11th innings of a World Series game. In my opinion, and I am sure the opinion of nearly all Cardinals fans, this was the Greatest World Series Game of Our Generation. Perhaps ever. Only time will tell, I suppose.

There was only one thing that would make this game better. A victory in game 7. A loss would diminish the heroics and the drama of game 6 in my mind. Game 7 was a good game, but couldn’t possibly rival game 6 and it didn’t. What it did do, though was, three fold: 1) Gave David “Absolute Zero” two more RBI (to tie the game again, so less) making him the current record holder for most RBI in the post season with 21,  2) Made Game 6 a perhaps legendary status, and 3) Made the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals World Series CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!

This season was one of the most memorable seasons I have ever seen, not just as a Cardinals fan but in general. All the Cardinals have done since last August is come back. They came back from 10 1/2 down to win the Wild Card; they came back from a 2-1 series deficit to win the NLDS; they came back FIVE times in game 6 of the WS to win; and they came back from a 3-2 series deficit in the WS.

Because when all is said and done, “All they have to do is make the playoffs.”

JE is a life long Cardinals fan and is still pinching himself. He can be seen very infrequently tweeting on Twitter at @stlfear_the_red and has a Facebook Fan page, though he has no idea what the address is. The Cardinals, at this time, have won the world series every year that he has had a blog.

* JE apolgizes for the lenght of the post and any grammatical and spelling errors. He will attempt to correct any mistakes that are pointed out and will eventually re-read through the long, long post to try and correct any he sees. That might not be for awhile, however, because he has alot of other UCB blogs to read through. Please forgitve him any mistakes that he has made.

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Monthly Predictions: June

Posted by JE Powell

Here it is, the third installment of my Montly Predicitons where I try to predict the Cardinals record for the month and overall record. So far I have been exactly right in predicting a 16-11 record in April and a 17-12 record for May. However, I will also predict that this will be the first time this year that I am wrong and will not be correct in June. Law of averages and all that.

Cards vs. SF Giants, 2 Games Series (last two of a series that started in May)

I am going with the same prediction of the first two games of the four game series and saying 1-1.

Cards vs. Chicago Cubs, 3 Game series

I predicted a 1-2 finish against the Cubs last month and I am going to predict a 1-2 series for the Cards again this month. Mostly because I hope by predicting the Cards actually win the series.

Cards at Houston Astros, 3 Game series

I cannot predict a sweep for the Cards for a third straight series against the ‘Stros, but I will predict a 2-1 finish against them in this series.

Cards at Milwaukee Brewers, 3 Game Series

The Brew Crew is playing very well right now, but I am going to predict a 2-1 series win for the Cardinals in this one.  The Brewers are not a very good road team and this series is in St. Louis.

Cards at Washington Nationals, 3 Game Series

Pretty simple prediction on this one 2-1.

Cards vs.  Kansas City Royals, 3 Game Series

The last time these two teams faced each other, back in May, the Cards won the series 2-1, but it was hard fought. However, I think the Cards will go 2-1 again, but a little easier this time. KC isn’t playing that well right now, so Cards win the series.

Cards vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 3 Game Series

When these two teams met back in May, the Cards swept a two game series against the Phillies, but I don’t think the Phils will go down that easily again. 1-2, Cards lose the series.

Cards vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 3 Games Series

Jose Bautista is doing his best Albert Pujols impression this season (perhaps better as he hit 54 HR in 2010 and Pujols has never broke 50). However, the Blue Jays are mostly a one man show. Cards 2-1.

Cardinals at Baltimore Orioles, 3 Game Series

Baltimore is an improved team this season over last year, but right now I think the Cardinals are a better team. Cards 2-1

So, I am predicting a 15-11 record with an overall record of 48-34. Tune in next month where I will have a “I was wrong, but right about being wrong” post if I am, in fact, wrong.

Just like yesterday, please excuse the grammatical and spelling errors as I again sacrificed accuracy for content.

Monthly Predictions: May

Posted by JE Powell

Just before the season started, I went through and predicted the outcome of each series in April (I was only right on 4 of the 9 series, but I had the over all recored right!) and I am now going to continue that for May. So, here I am at my computer, have a Diet Coke beside me and I am ready to go. (Just a note, I am going to go through this one a little quicker than last time, do to time constraints)

Cards at Atlanta, Last Game of 3 Game Series

It’s hard to sweep a series in the majors, but I am going to get greedy and say the Cards win this one. Derrick Lowe is the scheduled starter for Atlanta and he is fresh off of a DUI arrest, so perhaps he will be distracted. Oh, and the Cards have a little pitcher name Jaime Garcia going. 1-0

Cards vs. Florida, 4 Game Series

Florida is playing very well right now and so are the Cards. I see a draw. 2-2

Cards vs. Milwaukee, 3 Game Series

Milwaukee is a good hitting team this year, but seems to rely quite a bit on the long ball and their pitching isn’t quite what I thought it would be. They are still a good team, though, and I think it will be a tough series. Cards 2-1

Cards at Cubs, 3 Game Series

It seems to me that the Cards always struggle against the Cubs, especially in Chicago. I don’t have any stats to back that up, but I (and it frustrates me to says this) see a lost series. Cards 1-2

Cards at Cincinatti, 3 Game Series

The Reds are a much better team this year than their record (at the time of this writing, 13-13) would indicate and their is some recent bad blood between the two teams. I think the Cards have better pitching overall. Cards 2-1

Cards vs. Philadelphia, 2 Game Series

The Philies are pitching really well, but I think the Cards are two. These two teams match up well, in my opinion. Phillies have a little better pitching, but the Cards have a little better hitting. 1-1

Cards vs. Houston, 2 Game Series

If I keep predicting a sweep, I would have to be right sooner or later, right? Cards 2-0

Cards at Kansas City, 3 Game Series

The Royals are a good young team and a playing pretty well right now, but I think the Cards are a better team. I am also going out on a limb here and thinking that there might be as many Cards fans in KC as Royals fans. Might seem almsot like a home series. Cards 2-1

Cards at San Diego, 3 Game Series

 A little revenge anyone? The Padres took two of three in St. Louis and since then the Cardinals have been hitting very well and the Padres haven’t. 2-1

Cards At Colorodo, 3 Game Series

This years Rockies team is much better than I thought they would be and are probably going to be near or at the top of the division all season long. Tough series, especially for in Colorodo. Cards 1-2

Cards vs. San Fransisco, 4 Game Series (Two in May)

The first two games depends on who the Cardinals face. If it’s Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, it will be tough to win both of the first two games. It will probably be tough anyway. 1-1

It’s kind of tough to predict how a team will do a week in advance, let alone a month, but, really, I have nothing to lose. Well, except perhaps the respect of my reader. But, my wife loves me, so I am not to worried about losing her respect. At least on my blog. If you do the math, I predict a 17-12 record for the month of May and a 33-23 record overall. If I am right, expect another “I Was Right! Sort Of…” post and if I am wrong, expect a “If you make enough predictions eventually you will get one right and just make sure you keep telling people about that one right prediction so they forget about the others” type of post. Or some such nonsense.