GAME 94: The Seventh Inning Massacre
For six innings the game looked like another entry in the Cardinals’ recent streak of offensive incompetence as Jake Westbrook went unsupported in a scoreless tie. Then suddenly the Cardinals (49-45) pounced on the unsuspecting Cubs for a record twelve runs in the seventh to rout the Baby Bears 12-0. An incredible victory, one of the best wins of the year.
VINDICATED: Jake Westbrook deserved the win tonight, so I’m very happy that the Cardinals gave him monumental support for his efforts. Westy pitched a gem, tossing seven innings of three hit ball with five strikeouts. For a while, it looked like Westbrook was going to be left to twist in the wind as the Cards managed just four hits during his performance.
BAD IDEA: After Rafael Furcal had singled in the third, Skip Schumaker was called on to bunt (grrr …). So Skip bunted and was out at first. HOWEVER, for some unknown reason Furcal decided to take third on the sacrifice bunt attempt. He was out by a mile. Had the team not rescued the situation with their late-game outburst, this awful and really dumb, Pujols-like baserunning blunder would’ve loomed large.
PRELUDE: David Freese started the seventh with a single, just the fifth hit at that point in the game. The Cardinals looked barely alive by then, so Matheny OF COURSE calls for a bunt with Jon Jay at the plate. A crowd of more than 43,000 groaned audibly and began to march on the Cardinals dugout in protest. Unlike Matheny, the crowd understood that Jay should not be bunting in that situation when he is (a) currently hitting .280 and (b) has the approximate bunting ability of an Iraqi sand spider. So naturally Jay popped out on the bunt attempt, giving up the out while also not advancing the runner. NICE.
BURSTING DAM: Cardinal Nation and everyone in baseball has spent the last month watching this offense with a perplexed look on their collective faces. The offense should be so much better than this they would mutter. Even the players have been saying that in recent days. You could feel the pent-up frustration within the team, and it was only a matter of time before they finally exploded.
And boy, did they ever! In an inning unlike anything seen since the fabled 1926 Cardinals, the offense unleashed seven doubles (tying a major league record), a triple, two walks, and a single. They scored twelve times. There hasn’t been a surprise attack this vicious and unforgiving since Pearl Harbor. The Cubs couldn’t have been more stunned if Smokin’ Joe Frazier had left-hooked them into unconsciousness.
So I guess it’s safe to say that the offense is looking up a bit. Four runs yesterday, twelve today. Fortunes can change in a hurry in baseball, but we really needed that emotional boost right now.
QUIBBLES: I’m not going to do a lot of harping on a night like this (SHOCKER!), but I want to emphasize this: Matheny needs to slow down on the micromanaging until he grasps some of the nuances of the game. The Jay bunt attempt was a killer. Matheny also called on Yadier Molina (batting .306) to bunt as well. Then, after we scored twelve runs, Matheny starts making mid-inning pitching changes like the game is still scoreless, thereby burning up relievers for no reason. I guess that, in the context of this game, these complaints might be unnecessary. However, they are indicative of some of the weird managerial decisions that have plagued Matheny’s rookie year. I wish he’d learn faster than this.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals. What an effort!
CONCLUSION: As I said earlier, we desperately needed a game like this to shake out the cobwebs of doubt and frustration that had tangled up in the corners of the clubhouse. The boys looked positively giddy for the first time in months. We have yet to see every aspect of this club fire all at once. Could this be the run we’ve been waiting for since the start of the season? If so, this game was the epicenter, the flashpoint, Ground Zero. Let’s hope so, because now is a great time to make a move in this terrible and embarrassing division.