GAMES 144-147: Dodging Bullets
After dropping three straight to the Padres in a series that almost required two wins, the Cardinals limped into Dodger Stadium with their playoff hopes hinging on a four game series with the equally-incompetent Dodgers. It was like a sword fight with wet noodles. Ultimately, the Cards managed a split, although each game featured soaring triumphs, bonehead plays, and bitter defeats. Again, I ask: who are the 2012 Cardinals???
GAME 144: Back From The Doghouse
The Cardinals eked out a 2-1 victory over the Dodgers in the opening game. Lance Lynn returned from exile to start, and he looked fantastic. He threw six solid innings, giving up just one earned run with seven strikeouts. Even better, his shortened delivery heightened the effect of his blistering fastball. The Dodgers, who have struggled with offense as much as the Cardinals, didn’t stand a chance.
While the game was largely uneventful, it did feature a spectacular outfield assist by Carlos Beltran in the third. Starter Josh Beckett (the former Boston asshole of beer and chicken infamy who came to L.A. in August) roped a single into right field. Instead of actually running to first, Beckett was leisurely jogging down the line. BAD IDEA. Beltran came up throwing, and nailed Beckett at first base. Hey, Los Angeles, how do you like Beckett now?
However, the win did give the Cards a (temporary) two-game lead over the Dodgers in the wild card race.
GAME 145: Trevor’s Tremors
Joe Kelly pitched admirably, gutting out five innings without his best stuff. The bullpen didn’t follow suit, as Trevor Rosenthal tasted his first sour lick of major league trouble with a nasty two-thirds of an inning that plated the go-ahead runs in the sixth. Edward Mujica and Same Freeman weren’t much better, as the Dodgers tacked on five runs to win 8-5 and pull within one game of the wild card.
GAME 146: Blown Everything
Cardinal Nation was collectively holding its breath as Jaime Garcia took the mound for another road start. The complicated lefty has had a few problems pitching on the road. However, Garcia pitched well enough to win, providing six decent innings and surrendering just one earned run.
Sadly, every other aspect of the game failed the team.
Mike Matheny continued his stupid-ass use of bunts, ordering Matt Carpenter to bunt in a 2-2 tie with runners on second and third and one out. HUH? Carpenter, the second-place hitter, was batting over .300 for the season. He also had Holliday and Allen Craig behind him, a perfect spot to see some pitches. Oh, and did I mention that Carpenter had never bunted before in the major leagues???
So Matheny has Carpenter bunt. And Carpenter strikes out. END OF RALLY.
But the game hinged on an umpiring call in the ninth. With two outs and the Cardinals holding a 3-2 lead, closer Jason Motte allowed a single to Andre Ethier. Dee Gordon, one of the fastest players in baseball, took over for Ethier, and immediately tried to steal second. Yadier Molina gunned a great throw to second, but it initially looked like Gordon was safe on the play. So, of course, the umpire called Gordon safe. However, a slow-motion replay from another angle showed that Daniel Descalso‘s tag touched Gordon before he actually reached the base. It was simply too close to call.
Then, Motte became unglued. He gave up a big double to Luis Cruz to score the tying run. Pinch hitter Juan Rivera followed that with a single off of the glove of a leaping Descalso, scoring pinch runner Elian Herrera with the game winner.
Many Cardinals fans complained that the umpiring call lost the game. NO. While that was certainly inconvenient, the Cardinals lost this game with another sputtering offensive night, some bone-headed calls by Matheny, and some not-so-timely pitching. The loss brought the Dodgers into a tie for the wild card.
GAME 147: Extra Something
With their wild card hopes nearly exhausted, the Cardinals turned to Adam Wainwright to stop the bleeding. Once more, a Cardinal starter provided a quality start, only to see it rendered meaningless by non-existent offense. The Cards eventually managed a 5-2 win in 12 innings.
After a two-run homer by Ethier in the fourth, the teams remained knotted 2-2 until the twelfth, when a clutch double by Jon Jay (his first hit of the entire series) scored Carpenter with the go-ahead run. That unhinged Dodger reliever John Ely, who followed that with a HBP and a walk before giving up a single and another walk to really pad the Cards’ lead. Motte redeemed himself with an almost perfect twelfth for his 35th save.
With the victory, the staggering Cardinals remain a game out in front of an apparently incompetent wild card race. If the Cardinals manage to hang on and “win” that second wild card berth, it will be the postseason version of defensive indifference. Does anybody give a shit around here??