GAME 9: Ring A-Ding Ding
A two hour rain delay couldn’t dim the luster of a classy afternoon World Series ring ceremony. The clouds parted, the sun came out, and the Cardinals turned some good pitching and a big inning of timely hitting into a 5-1 victory over the hated Chicago Cubs. BLING: The Cardinals presented gorgeous World Series rings to the members of the 2011 World Series Champions, and gave out substantial replicas to everyone in attendance, too. In a classy move, the Cardinals also gave rings to their Hall of Famers. That’s the kind of nod to tradition and family that keeps this franchise among the elite in sports. A wonderful touch.
SAFETY LANCE: Carpenter who? Lance Lynn turned in a superb 5.1 inning performance before running out of steam in the sixth. He was mixing pitches nicely, and the Cubs (granted, not the best offense) were off-balance most of the game. I especially liked the warm ovation he received … Cards fans know what’s up.
LA RUSSIAN: Mike Matheny used FIVE relievers between the sixth and ninth innings. Matheny went to the mound so often that the grounds crew will need to replace the sod around the mound overnight. The combination worked, however, as J.C. Romero, Mitchell Boggs, Fernando Salas, Mark Rzepczynski, and Jason Motte held the Cubs to just two hits over 3.2 innings. I think they’re finding their stride.
DRUNK: Busch Stadium announcer John Ulett repeatedly announced Alfonso Soriano as “Rafael Soriano” during the game. Was he announcing from Dan McLaughlin’s booth? You know that booth, the one with the tapper in it?
FEASTING ON CUBS: The Cardinals rocked another big offensive inning in the fourth, when they used an error by Starlin Castro and four straight hits to put four runs on the board and break a scoreless deadlock. The big hits were a double off of the fence by teeny-tiny Matt Carpenter, a timely hit from Yadier Molina, and a booming triple from Daniel Descalso. This offense can turn it up in a hurry. Speaking of which …
GO GO MOLINA: Remember how fans had a running joke about Molina lollygagging on the bases? Well, Molina’s running now, and it ain’t no joke. With Cubs starter Chris Volstad daydreaming on the mound, Molina took off running for second before Volstad was even ready to pitch. It was an easy steal of second base. Molina bounced up at second and smacked his hands together with a child-like enthusiasm. That kind of aggression and veteran leadership is the reason Molina deserves every penny of that new contract. It’s also interesting to see how Molina’s game has improved since his buddy left town.
EVERYDAY JAY: Jon Jay wasn’t messing around in the seventh when he crushed a home run down the right field line and deep into the seats for the Cards’ final run. If TLR ever had a correct instinct (the jury is still out on that one), it was his pick of Jay as an everyday player. The kid is clutch.
CUBS WILL BE CUBS: It seems almost cruel to pick on the lowly Cubs, who are still rebuilding and not fully-formed yet, but they misplayed several easy chances that led to runs. Twice they had ground balls to shortstop that were easy outs, but Castro’s terrible throws pulled first baseman Bryan LaHair off the base. Also, LaHair stood motionless in foul territory as a foul popup landed mere inches from him. Basically, LaHair sucks. So does Castro. And the whole team, too.
ON HOLLIDAY: Is Matt Holliday okay? He was wearing a curious black support band around his right elbow throughout the game much like one that people suffering from tennis elbow might wear. Perhaps he ruptured something swinging at every pitch like a rabid lumberjack. Given his anemic .200 average and curiously-unfocused at-bats, Holliday might want to dial it down a notch and just make contact. I’m sure he’s feeling pressure to produce with Pujols missing, and a few decent hits might get him in a healthier frame of mind.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Several standouts today, but I’ll go with Molina. He went 2-4 with the game’s first two RBI’s, and his stolen base really energized the team.
CONCLUSION: Once the rains dissipated, the sun came out and the Cardinals took total control of the game. It was a fitting, team-oriented win on a day designed to honor a team-oriented World Series Championship. Just a note-perfect win.