GAME 121: The Long, Slow Death
As Jaime Garcia took to the mound at 1:15 pm, nobody suspected what was about to happen: an obstinate 19-inning fight-to-the-death between two desperate wild card foes. Although the game provided some positives for the Cardinals, they ultimately lost the battle 6-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch to lose a vital series.
MENTAL STABILITY: Jaime Garcia returned from almost two months on the disabled list, and all eyes were on him. Despite the intense pressure, Garcia delivered one of the greatest games of his short and troubled career. Garcia threw eight innings, striking out ten and giving up no walks. His only mistake was a fielding error in the sixth that extended the inning to Andrew McCutchen, who then tied the score at two and set up the extra inning nightmare to follow. Garcia was amazing, and if anything good can come from this ulcer-inducing loss, it’s the stud performance from Headcase.
ONE MAN OFFENSE: Does Carlos Beltran really have to do everything on this damned team? While the league’s “best offense” spent most of the afternoon snoozing, Beltran was providing actual hits with runners in scoring position (BLASPHEMY!) and driving in runs. It’s like a revolutionary way to approach offense! Without Beltran, this team would be battling Houston for the basement of this sorry-ass division.
REDEMPTION: Lead-off hitter Jon Jay began the first half of the game (i.e. nine innings) going 0-5 and looking helpless. From there, Jay went 3-4 and helped keep the pressure on the Pirates. He also made two spectacular plays in the outfield during the extra inning end of the game, including a remarkable running catch at the wall to save the game. We can forgive an 0-5 with that kind of make-up effort.
BACK TO EARTH: Remember when Matt Holliday was smashing baseballs everywhere and on track for an MVP type of year? Yeah, not so much right now. Holliday went 0-7, popping out on almost every at-bat. He was the black hole at the center of this lineup; Holliday combined with Beltran and Freese for a 2-22 day (both hits for Beltran) with four strikeouts and six LOB. You’re not going to win many games like that, no matter how many innings you play.
GLOVEWORK: Like Holliday, Beltran, and Freese, Yadier Molina didn’t have a great day at the plate (2-6). However, even when Yadi doesn’t contribute on offense, his glove always provides something special. Today, Molina picked off his third runner of the year at first base (has any other catcher in history done that as well as Molina??) and also threw out Jose Tabata in the 16th inning to save the game. He’s simply the best catcher I’ve ever seen.
GOGGLES ON: After Garcia’s amazing eight innings, the second huge surprise of the day was the brilliant effort of Joe Kelly to hold the Pirates at bay for 5.2 innings (from the 12th inning to the 18th inning). He was special, striking out four and displaying the kind of grit that would make TLR spontaneously ejaculate. He eventually gave up a run, of course, but that is to be expected given that Kelly has yet to throw a scoreless game. However, he gave the team a boost at just the right time, and proved his worth in that bullpen. Awesome!
SWING AWAY: As the game progressed into the ridiculous, the Cardinal batters apparently decided to ignore the fundamentals of proper at-bats. They swung away at pitches they should’ve taken while taking called third strikes. The most egregious at-bat came from Rafael Furcal in the 17th inning down 3-2; after Molina and Skip Schumaker both singled, Furcal strode to the plate and took a mighty hack at the first pitch, lining out to the second baseman. It was the perfect chance to end the game … instead, Furcal’s stupidity forced the Cardinals to just tie the game, leading to a disastrous 19th inning. DUMB.
BROWN STAIN: How much longer must we endure the ineffectiveness of Barret Browning? He did well in his first two appearances, and since then he has blown three games (including this one) while compiling an ERA of 5.21. A paraplegic goat could do that.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: (tie) Garcia and Kelly.
GOAT: Browning, Holliday, Furcal, or David Freese. So many choices!
CONCLUSION: This loss right here could be the defining game of the season for this confused, inconsistent group. The clueless at-bats, the lack of clutch, and the pitching failures all seem to indicate a team destined to miss the playoffs. Still, we saw some amazing pitching, too, as well as a team that fought back hard for most of a devastating game. It’s getting a bit late in the season for this much inconsistency, though.