GAME 162: Honor The Past, Cheer The Present, Anticipate The Future
The Cardinals finished out their regular season schedule with a symphonic final game that pitted a cast of Cardinal bench players against a full squadron of Reds starters. Mike Matheny conducted this orchestra masterfully, allowing future star Shelby Miller to chase a no-hitter, giving Cards fans a chance to say goodbye to Lance Berkman, and opening a chance for Jason Motte to tie for first for most saves in the National League. It was a perfect performance for an adoring crowd, as the Cardinals won the final game of the regular season 1-0 over the hated Reds at Busch Stadium. Atlanta, here we come!!
THE FUTURE IS NOW: The Cardinals unwrapped an early Christmas present tonight, setting Shelby Miller loose on a loaded Reds lineup. He definitely did not disappoint. Miller carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before surrendering a two-out hit to Wilson Valdez that just bounced over the top of the glove of a leaping Ryan Jackson. The Busch Stadium crowd of over 42,000 gave Miller a long standing ovation, causing a humbled Miller to paw at the rubber with his head down. Welcome to Cardinal Nation, Shelby!
GOODBYE LANCE: With the pitcher’s spot due up with two outs in the bottom of the seventh and the game still scoreless, Matheny did the classy thing by allowing a hobbled Lance Berkman to pinch hit. It’s been a heartbreaking season for Berk, who probably would’ve liked ending his career with the kind of farewell tour Chipper Jones has enjoyed this year. As soon as Berkman emerged from the dugout, a wave of cheering and standing fans swept through the stadium in rapturous gratitude. Berkman grounded out to the pitcher to end his career as a Cardinal. However, in a statement of obvious import, Berkman slowly jogged the entire length of the first base line, touched the bag for a last time, and exited into Cardinal history. A beautiful moment for one of the most endearing baseball players of my lifetime. Thank you, Mr. Berkman. You will never be forgotten here.
B-CLUB, A-WORK: There is nothing to say about our bench players this year except WOW. They have done an incredible job carrying this oft-injured squad through a tough season. Tonight was a chance to show off some of what we have currently honoring a Cardinal uniform. They played solid, fundamental baseball tonight before a huge crowd, and gave everyone there a reason to love our so-called “back-up” players. It came together for them in the eighth, when Shane Robinson singled and Skip Schumaker walked in front of Matt Carpenter, who then singled in the game’s winning run. A fantastic night for the young guys!
FIREMAN OF THE YEAR: Graciously, Matheny called on Jason Motte to come into the game with one out and a runner on first in the ninth inning. This gave Motte, who really should be resting, the golden chance to save the game and earn his 42nd save. That ties him for first with Craig Kimbrel of Atlanta. Many have dogged Motte for his occasional blown saves, but they easily forget the many times Motte has closed out games with his signature 98 mph strikeout fastball. Congratulations, Jason!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The entire 2012 Cardinals squad, including Matheny. Tonight’s game was a wonderful example of what this team can accomplish when it works together and plays the game the right way.
CONCLUSION: It’s not over yet. In two days, this rejuvenated Cardinal team will face Atlanta in a sudden-death showdown. Can they triumph in this one-shot wild card circus act and continue? Given what we’ve seen from them in recent weeks, I think the Braves and their fans should prepare themselves for another offseason of weeping and wailing. GO CARDS! 12 in ’12!! Do you believe?!?