NLDS GAME 2: Powerhouse
After flailing grotesquely in a 3-2 loss in Game 1, the Cardinals needed to come out and make a statement to the Nationals in the second home game before heading to Washington for the final three games. And boy, did they ever make a statement. Defiant pitching combined with incredible defense and some indelible hits as the Cardinals evened the NLDS with a 12-4 smashing of the Nationals. These Cardinals are not ready to keel over and die! Let’s go to Washington and kick some ass!
HEIMLICH: I know Jaime Garcia didn’t like it, but Mike Matheny made the right call to yank the troubled left-hander after two rough innings. Garcia walked three against three strikeouts while surrendering just one run, but the result could’ve been much worse. Garcia fell behind almost every batter he faced, and never looked commanding. When Matheny informed Garcia of the removal, Garcia looked angry as he hastily pulled his coat over his pitching arm. Sorry, Jaime … but you didn’t have the kind of stuff we needed tonight.
SASQUATCH: How tough was Lance Lynn tonight? Brought into the game as an emergency reliever after Garcia’s erratic outing, Lynn pitched as well as anyone could expect. He have up two homers, but he also pitched three innings and struck out five around them. More importantly, Lynn instilled a sense of calm and composure to the team, who quickly capitalized on it for a huge night. In a season full of All Star caliber moments, tonight was the most important effort from Lynn.
BIG OFFENSE: After playing tiddlywinks on Sunday night, the Cardinal offense suddenly lit up for four home runs and twelve total runs. Heart-of-the-order guys Allen Craig and Yadier Molina combined to go 5-9, while Daniel Descalso sliced a deciding single among his two hits. As a team, the Cardinals went 13-35 (.372) and an OBP of .450. In other words, it’s what we expect most nights from a lineup like this one. Why can’t this happen every night?
CARLOS WANTS IT: Carlos Beltran has spent an entire career chasing a championship, but he’s never really come close to achieving that dream. His horrible two-month slump down the stretch seemed to indicate that he had little left to contribute to ever reaching that goal. But tonight Beltran came alive, and demonstrated why he is still one of the most feared hitters in the league. Beltran crunched two home runs in the sixth and eighth innings, good for three postseason RBI’s. When healthy and right, Beltran is as talented as any baseball player alive. He has the kind of shocking power that can elevate a team and carry it. Beltran now finds himself in the midst of the greatest team in his illustrious career. I hope he gets hot and uses the talent around him to achieve his one defining dream: a world championship.
WALL CRASHER: Even when Jon Jay isn’t hitting, his defense still ranks him among the league’s most valuable outfielders. When he is hitting, then he is lethal. Jay helped propel the offense with a 2-5 night with 3 RBI, but it was his wall-crashing catch in the sixth that proved to be his biggest contribution. Danny Espinosa led off the sixth with a drive to deep center off of an uneven Joe Kelly. Fearlessly ranging back, Jay leaped and caught the ball at the very moment that he smashed into the green Busch Stadium wall. Another Gold Glove moment to cap a spectacular, error-free season in center. We’ve had many great centerfielders over the years, but Jay is quickly becoming one of the best.
WTF? I know, I know … Matt Holliday is a great outfielder. I hear it all the time. However, what evidence do we have of this greatness? In addition to allowing important fly balls to drop in (see: Atlanta Wild Card Game / World Series Game six 2011 / NLDS 2009), he does a lot of other bizarre stuff out in left field. Tonight, for instance, Holliday fielded a line drive from Ryan Zimmerman in the seventh. As Holliday moved to throw the ball into the infield, he instead threw it directly into the ground about twenty feet in front of him. He looked like a caveman angrily throwing a rock. Fortunately, the ball bounced far enough that Daniel Descalso was able to turn it into a fortunate double play. Still … it was an accident, right?
TERROR OF ROSENTHAL: With the Cardinals leading 12-4 in the ninth, Matheny handed the ball to young Trevor Rosenthal. This was a smart move considering that Rosenthal has never tasted postseason baseball before. However, if the rookie seemed fazed, you could never tell by his performance. Rosenthal blasted through the Nationals in the ninth, striking out the side with pitches that occasionally reached 100 mph. Rosenthal is the future of this organization, and his talent, combined with this early test by fire, will prove to be very powerful in the years to come.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Beltran.
GOAT OF THE GAME: Get your head on straight, Garcia!
CONCLUSION: The importance of winning this game could not be overstated; the Cardinals absolutely could not go into Washington down 2-0. Not only did they win to even the series, but they did so in a convincing, dominant way that should sent a message to the upstart Nationals. This is a Cardinal team of incredible resiliency, and they won’t lay down for anyone. Push them in a corner, and they come out snarling and snapping. They need to win two of three in Washington, but so do the Nationals. It’s no easy task for either team. However, I’d still put my money on this surprising, unpredictable Cardinal team. 12in’12! Believe!