GAME 132: Big Willie Style
On Willie McGee bobblehead night, the Cardinals did their best tribute to the St. Louis favorite by mixing a rare running attack, some power, and defense when it counted in a dramatic 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
NEVER FORGET: A long, thunderous ovation greeted the beloved #51 as he rode out of the outfield gate in the back of a shiny red pickup truck. This is the kind of unrestrained love that develops when a baseball player combines raw talent with a terrific work ethic and a humble, genuine heart. Willie McGee might not ever be mentioned by the east/west coast sports mafias in the same company with other great center fielders, but in the Midwest McGee rules. Meanwhile, in the dugout, TLR glared out from behind his sunglasses with pure hatred for the attention McGee received from the fans, and began plotting a way to divert their attention…
JUST ENOUGH: After a rough first inning that saw starter Jake Westbrook loudly booed after giving up three runs on several consecutive hits and two walks, he settled into as much of a “groove” as he ever will see in his career. He kept the team in the game while waiting for the offense to bail him out (it didn’t) while throwing over 100 pitches in six innings. It qualifies as a quality start, which for Westbrook is Cy Young caliber.
YADIOS: The game mostly belonged to Yadier Molina, who instantly tied the game 3-3 with a three run homer to left. He also gunned down a runner at second, something we haven’t seen much of from him this year. Oh, and did I mention that his smile would light up the dark side of the moon. Yes, that’s right – MANCRUSH.
PUMA POWER: Lance Berkman provided the dramatics in the eighth, powering a two-run homer into the Cardinals’ bullpen to put the Cards ahead for good. As an interesting side note, I not only called this event at the beginning of the inning, but I also pointed to the location of the home run as well. I seriously think people should listen to me more often. I’m like a nerdier Nostradamus over here.
UNCLE, ARTHUR: Arthur Rhodes came in to pitch the seventh inning. He now has enough innings as a Cardinal to qualify for the ERA title in the National League. Too bad his ERA is 217.69. This was just the start of TLR’s concerted effort to throw this game under the bus (probably to take the shine off of the appearance by McGee, Ozzie Smith, and Vince Coleman). Fortunately, TLR’s wicked plan failed, and Rhodes managed to record his second successive scoreless inning.
TRYING TO LOSE: TLR gave it his very best shot to lose the game in the ninth. Not only did he leave Kyle McClellan in there for a second inning (leaving a reliever in for two innings has almost a 100% fail rate this year), but he decided to bring Ryan Theriot in to play second base for “defensive purposes.” Bringing Theriot in to protect a one-run lead on defense is like leaving Paris Hilton in charge of guarding your room full of cocaine. The baseball gods sensed TLR’s desire to lose with these moves, and caused the second batter to hit a ball directly at Theriot. This would usually be a sure bobble and a rally-starter, but Theriot actually fielded the ball cleanly and recorded the out. In other words, this was the Cardinals’ night.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: (Tie) Berkman for the timely game winner, and McGee for coming out from under his rock to energize the crowd and bring back memories of exciting baseball.
CONCLUSION: Nothing was going to spoil a gorgeous night that brought back to the fold one of the most cherished players to ever wear the uniform, not even TLR’s evil machinations. A great night.