Sorry to be cliché, folks, but I can’t call myself a Cardinals fan and NOT include a post about my thoughts on Friday night’s astonishing finish.
Going into Friday’s game, I thought the Cardinals still had the momentum. Even after losing to the Nationals the night before in a walk-off fashion, I still knew we were the better team. All of my hope about drained away after we went down 6-0 in the 3rd. What could possibly be done to save us? The only hope we had was that it was still only the 4th inning. 6 runs over 6 innings? Not impossible, especially not when you consider the run differentials throughout the series.
Adam Wainwright leaves the final game of the NLDS after giving up six runs in three innings.
And yet, I had to set myself up to not be disappointed.
“It’s all over,” I said. “There’s no way we’re coming back from this.”
My boyfriend was much more optimistic than I. His mantra was just to keep chipping away, one run at a time. And that’s exactly what the Cardinals did.
Going into the bottom of the 8th only down one run, 6-5, I thought “This really might happen.” But then Jason Motte, our lights-out closer, gave up a HR that rocked my world. Again, the pessimism set in.
“There’s NO WAY we’re going to win this game,” I said. “It’s all OVER.”
Allen was not amused by my banter, and continued to hold out hope, perhaps the only thing he knew how to do in the moment. Deep down, beneath my pessimistic exterior, I knew it wasn’t over. Because it’s never over with the Cardinals. Not until the very last out.
That last out would appear to come sooner than expected. Carlos Beltran started off the 9th inning with a double. Holliday would move him to 3rd, a move that just barely preventing me from loathing him (there’s something about Matt Holliday that makes me expect him to blow it in pressure situations. There are probably no statistics to back this up, but sometimes feelings mean more than stats.)
Another out later, and Yadier Molina, my favorite player of all-time (yes, I was a die-hard back in ’04 when he was still a back-up for Mike Matheny), stepped up to the plate. Normally, I would stand behind my man, but that night, looking at what he’d done all series, I just couldn’t. I knew this was the end. Yadi would hit an infield blooper to end the game.
Only he didn’t. He stayed disciplined at the plate, like the MVP candidate was all know and love, and drew himself a walk to first. David Freese did the same. And suddenly, bases were loaded for a man who had already proven he’d come to win: Daniel Descalso.
Descalso didn’t waste anytime. He saw that first pitch and suddenly the ball was down and we had scored two runs. The game was tied. I couldn’t believe it. Everything about the magic of postseason baseball I had learned in October 2011 was coming back to me.
Daniel Descalso ties up Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals in the top of the 9th on Oct. 12.
But a tie wasn’t a win. We would have to hold off the Nats and win in extras. The stress had not ended.
Insert Pete Kozma, the man of the hour. Kozma, a career minor-leaguer dubbed a bench player at best, having the best two months of his life up in the majors. Kozma, who only got a shot in the lineup because veteran shortstop Rafeal Furcal hurt his elbow and is out for the season. Kozma, who’s bad play (and lucky in-field fly call) in the playoff game against the Braves caused hundreds of fans to throw beer bottles onto the field. This was the guy who was about to win a trip to the NLCS.
And he did it. In the wonderful, magical fashion only known to Cardinals players. Something about those birds on the bat makes something special happen. And that’s exactly what happened on Friday night. Pete Kozma hits a single into right, scores two more runs. 9-7 Cardinals. Jason Motte holds a bat in his hands for the first time all season. Goes on to end the game 1-2-3 in the bottom of the 9th.
Tonight, the Cardinals play San Francisco in Game 1 of the NLCS. Most of you will probably be watching Sunday Night Football because, well, if you’re not a Cardinals fan, you probably hate them. But it doesn’t matter. I’ll be glued to my screen, waiting for another October miracle that only St. Louis is capable of.