NLDS GAME 1: Not Like Champions
After the Cardinals stunned the Braves in the Wild Card game on Friday, Yadier Molina boasted to reporters that the Braves “played to lose, but we (the Cardinals) played to win.” Hey Yadi, do you know what swinging at the first pitch with the bases loaded and one out is? PLAYING TO LOSE. That was just one of the many cardiac-inducing moments in what must be considered one of the most inexplicable losses in recent memory. The game was exactly what everyone feared from this inconsistent, often-unfocused team. The Cardinals dropped the first game of the NLDS 3-2 to the Washington Nationals.
BACK TO FORM: Adam Wainwright pitched six incredibly gutsy innings, snapping off curves like it was 2006. He struck out ten Nationals, something that hasn’t been done by a Cardinal starter in postseason play in decades. It was not enough. Forced to walk a tightrope thanks to another offensive collapse, Wainwright eventually had to leave the game and surrender it into the hands of the bullpen and budding managerial mastermind Mike Matheny. What a waste of a terrific Game One start!
WALKS OF SHAME: How many walks can you give the 2012 Cardinals without giving up a run? As many as you want. The Cardinals were handed SEVEN walks today and three bases-loaded situations and couldn’t capitalize. That’s like winning the lottery and then dying before you can even cash the ticket. This kind of gross incompetence looks flatly familiar to anyone who has watched this team fumble so many golden opportunities. I’m not even sure it’s mathematically possible to fuck up that many chances, but the 2012 Cardinals keep finding new algebra.
FIRST PITCH SWINGING: I’ve bitched about it all season – TAKE A FIRST PITCH IN A PRESSURE SITUATION. It’s such a basic rule of baseball that dinosaur embryos from the Triassic Period have it encoded in their DNA. There are times to buck the trend, like when facing a notorious first-strike pitcher like Kris Medlen, but generally it’s better to take a pitch. But not THESE Cardinals! After they loaded the bases with nobody out in the seventh (on an error, a single, and a HBP), Allen Craig (who went 0-4 and six runners stranded in the cleanup spot) hacked at the first pitch and grounded into a forceplay at home. Then Yadi, surrounded by 47,000 screaming fans, chopped at the first pitch (definitely a ball inside) and grounded into a double play. END OF THREAT. This is simply inexcusable.
BRING BACK Ryan Theriot: Hey … remember one week ago when Pete Kozma was playing so well at shortstop that he was making everyone reconsider Rafael Furcal? Well, Kozma has regressed to the mean at the wrong damned time. In addition to going hitless and stranding two, Kozma also committed an error (his second defensive miscue in this postseason) in the eighth that opened the gates for Washington. Maybe he’s scared on such a huge stage; it’s easy to be overwhelmed by it all. But he’d better get his head in the game quick, or we have no shot at all.
MATHENYISM: Fucking Matheny. Is this guy capable of learning from his repeated mistakes? He’s like an attractive-but-malfunctioning robot, endlessly looping through the same failed program. His latest involved his bullpen usage in a critical eighth inning mess. After a Kozma error, a single by Ian Desmond put runners on first and third with nobody out against Mitchell Boggs. The Nationals then BUNTED to the surprise of everyone, pushing Desmond to second but failing to advance the runner at third. Boggs than struck out pain-in-the-ass Kurt Suzuki for the second out. Nats manager Davey Johnson calls on left-handed slugger Chad Tracy to pinch hit.
So then Matheny’s gerbil wheel starts turning. He decides that NOW is the time to call Marc Rzepczynski from the bullpen to face the left-handed Tracy despite the fact that Johnson would very likely switch out the hitter with a right-handed bat and Zeppo would be forced to pitch to him. Matheny also does this despite the fact that Boggs has better splits against left-handed bats than Zeppo! Matheny also brings in Rzepczynski despite the fact that the left-hander was so erratic and unreliable that he was barely used during September! But yeah … let’s bring him into THIS!
And if you HAD to take Boggs out, then why not just bring Jason Motte in for a four-out save?
Anyway, Matheny brought Rzepczynski into the game while Davey Johnson nearly collapsed from laughter. Then, Johnson made the move everyone except Matheny knew was coming: he switched out Tracy for right-handed bat Tyler Moore. And Moore OF COURSE roped a two-run single to win the game for the Nationals. I guarantee you that Matheny STILL doesn’t understand what happened.
WHINERS AND BITCHES: Here’s a post-game thought – stop crying about the shadows! Matt Holliday made it a particular point to complain about the shadows across the infield during the game, and how it made things difficult and whatnot. STOP CRYING YOU BIG-HEADED BITCH. You’re embarrassing Cardinal Nation with these crybaby antics. The Nationals never seemed to have a problem with the shadows, did they? Why must we listen to this whining after an afternoon loss? I’m starting to think that Reds fans have a point about this team.
SHUT UP: Cards fans were tweeting their disgust with the calls of the home plate umpire today. HA! As if THAT was the reason this team couldn’t score all after noon! Look, people, you can’t celebrate after an awful call goes your way in the Atlanta game, and then turn around an whine about a few errant balls and strikes. This team was given ample opportunities to score runs, and they simply didn’t do it. I know for sure that the home plate umpire didn’t swing the bat for Craig and Yadi in that seventh inning.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Wainwright.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Tough one. Molina and Craig stand out, as does Kozma.
CONCLUSION: Any team that takes at-bats like those will lose most of the time. Any team whose manager makes bullpen moves of that sort will lose most of the time. And any team that plays the game like a bunch of menstruating teenaged girls will lose most of the time. MAN UP and PLAY THE GAME RIGHT, or GO HOME.