NLCS GAME 3: Hang On
The Cardinals jumped all over Milwaukee Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo for four runs in the first, and the bullpen shut the Brewers down as the Cards survived a tense 4-3 victory over their arch rivals. The Cards take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series and looking forward to the ass-end of the Brewers’ rotation. Could it happen Friday?
NOT SO SHARP: Chris Carpenter looked HUMAN tonight after so many successive pitching masterpieces. He managed to toss five innings and surrender only three runs to a Brewers lineup clearly ready to batter him. When some nobody named Mark Kotsay hits a home run off of Carpenter, it’s fair to say that Carp didn’t have his best stuff. Still, he battled like all aces should, and it was inspiring nonetheless.
EXPLOSION: How reassuring was it to see the Cards erupt for four quick and decisive runs in the first inning? What a statement! Four hits (including three doubles) and three walks led to massive run support, which Carp and the bullpen managed to hold up in the end.
THAWED: The most impressive offensive display tonight came from hometown boy David Freese, who laced three hits in four at bats and was generally terrorizing the Brewers all night. I have no idea why this kid is batting seventh in this lineup, but whatever … it’s working.
D: Jon Jay and Nick Punto combined for a first-inning play that turned the momentum around and gave the Cards renewed hope. The Brewers had runners on first and second and one out when Prince Fielder skied a ball to center. Jon Jay made the catch, and then alertly threw to Punto at second to catch Kotsay wandering around the base. I guess Kotsay was used to Fielder hitting home runs and forgot that sometimes fielders catch those fly balls. Anyway, Punto turned the double play while Kotsay clumsily crashed into the dirt in front of second. Big-time momentum changer!
HOLLIDAY ON VACATION: It’s time to come to terms with Matt Holliday. He’s a great seasonal hitter, and a fine presence in the lineup. BUT HE’S HURT. His fourth inning strikeout might be the worst at bat I’ve ever seen from a player making more than the league minimum (thereby excluding Colby Rasmus‘ at bats from earlier in the year). Holliday looked awful, practically falling over to swing-and-miss pitches low and definitely outside the strike zone. As Allen Craig‘s pinch single in the sixth shows, we need Craig in the lineup instead of Holiday until he’s actually well enough to compete at this level. TLR needs to accept this obvious and painful fact.
C’MON, BERK: Since his mammoth home run in game one of the Philly series, Lance Berkman has 2 RBI’s in 27 at bats. He’s really struggling to drive the ball. I imagine tiredness has something to do with it, but now is not the time to fall down on the job. I have no idea how we’re winning games with Holliday and Berkman forming a black hole in the center of our lineup.
THE MANIMAL: I think it’s fair to say Albert Pujols has come alive. Another 2-4 performance (with two walks, a RBI, and a run scored) boosted his playoff average to .636, one of his best ever. He’s basically carrying this team on the biggest stage possible at the best moment for the team and his career.
ENJOY YOUR NEW MASCOT, HICKS: Busch Stadium wasted no time in creating a squirrel mascot to parade around the field with Fredbird during inning breaks. The suited mascot did everything Fredbird does: jump on the dugouts and pump up the crowd, toss shirts into the stands, and goof off with the Fredbird girls. All because some rodent ran onto the field. Bizarre. By the way, workers at the tee-shirt stands said they sold thousands and thousands of stuffed squirrels for $6 a piece. UGH. Can’t wait for the guys on Sportscenter to mock us again tomorrow.
LOCKED PEN: We’ve seen so many awful performances by the bullpen that the great moments seem like divine revelations from God. In this case, God is Tony LaRussa, who surfed through the troublesome Brewers lineup with the skill of a world-class wave-runner. The best matchup came in the eighth, when Marc Rzepczynski struck out Prince Fielder before giving way to Jason Motte. Still, Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Zeppo, and Motte were unbelievable.
MOTTE YOUR AVERAGE CLOSER: Jason Motte was hideously efficient tonight, dicing the Brewers lineup like Paula Deen on an onion. Every great Cardinals team has had a dominant, lights-out closer: Bruce Sutter, Todd Worrell, Adam Wainwright. It’s time to consider Motte as one of the boys. Judging by the ovation he received tonight, I’d say he already has.
STAN: Pre-game festivities included an appearance by three of the great Cardinals of all time: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, and Stan Musial. For whatever reason, they decided that Musial needed to get out of the car and stand up. This turned out badly, as the aging star nearly fell down before being dropped back into his seat. He’s approximately 192 years old; let him sit down and rest!
SIGNIFICANCE: The win tonight is oh so important. We can beat just about every other starter on the Brewers’ staff except Gallardo. Now that we have this win under our belts, we should have a fighting chance to take this series right now. The Brewers look dazed, stumbling around in the harsh light of this arena. It’s time to waste them.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: The BULLPEN. Freese and Pujols were fantastic, but we don’t win this game without the efforts of those four glorious men.
CONCLUSION: So we’ve beaten the Brewers’ best pitcher in the rain. What’s next? Randy Wolf is just begging to be hammered into 2012, and I fully expect that this charged Cardinals club, flushed with momentum, will do just that tomorrow night. Count on it!