What a night, What a night.
Go back in time, August 23rd 2011 I was at Busch Stadium with my family to watch the Cardinals play the Dodgers. The Dodgers won 13-2, they were up 11-0 after the 5th inning. Busch Stadium was dead silent. It was something I had never seen before at a Cardinals game. The fans just seemed uninterested as if they had already called the season over. That was the night I gave up. I had been holding onto hope for a few weeks, but that night, losing to the Dodgers in that fashion falling 10 games back of the Brewers and 10.5 back of the Braves. I told myself "Deal with it Matt, it's over". I told myself the Cards should just start focusing on next year, I should just enjoy the month of September and enjoy Cardinal Baseball before it goes away till spring.
I've never been happier to be proven wrong.
After the Cards were swept by the Dodgers, the Pirates came into town for 4, we took 3 of the 4 games. We were still 9.5 back of the Braves so I like most Cardinals fans took it as a nice series win and then forgot about it. Then we went to Milwaukee and swept the Brewers to get us within 7.5 of first in the central and 8.5 back of the Braves. That's when my Dad started telling me, "don't give up on them just yet Matt. There's still hope". Then we lost 2 of 3 to the Reds, I once again told my Dad "I don't think they're coming back, Little did I know that would be the last time in the Regular Season the Cards lost a series.
We then took 2 of 3 from the Brewers, even though I felt we weren't going to catch them, I was enjoying the baseball the Cards were playing and it felt nice to win another series against the eventual NL Central Champs. At this point we were 6.5 back of the Braves with Atlanta coming to town for a 3 game series. I thought to myself "If we can sweep the Braves, then maybe we have a slight possibility to catch them. In the first game of the series we were down 3-1 heading to the bottom of the 9th. Craig Kimbrel the Braves stellar closer came in to get the final 3 outs.
Then the tide of the game, and the season took 1 BIG turn.
- Pitcher Change: Craig Kimbrel replaces Jonny Venters, batting 9th.
- 1.Skip Schumaker singles on a line drive to left fielder Martin Prado.
- Offensive Substitution: Pinch hitter Nick Punto replaces Arthur Rhodes.
- 2.Nick Punto grounds into a force out, second baseman Dan Uggla to shortstop Jack Wilson. Skip Schumaker out at 2nd. Nick Punto to 1st.
- 3.Gerald Laird strikes out swinging.
- 4.Rafael Furcal walks. Nick Punto to 2nd.
- Offensive Substitution: Pinch hitter Ryan Theriot replaces Adron Chambers.
- 5.Ryan Theriot walks. Nick Punto to 3rd. Rafael Furcal to 2nd.
- Coaching visit to mound.
- 6.Albert Pujols singles on a sharp ground ball to right fielder Jason Heyward. Nick Punto scores. Rafael Furcal scores. Ryan Theriot out at home on the throw, right fielder Jason Heyward to shortstop Jack Wilson to catcher Brian McCann.We tied the game, We went to extras and in the 10th a Nick Punto SAC fly won it for the Cardinals. We went on to sweep the Braves to pull within 4.5 games of the WC. That's when I thought "Maybe just maybe we can do this." The Cards went to Pittsburgh and took 2 of 3 to stay 4.5 games out heading to Philly. Then in Philly against the best team in baseball the Cardinals came up big. The first game of that series was wild. We blew a 9th inning lead, only to go to extras and win it thanks to a rookie who before that game, hardly anyone knew about. We went on to take 3 of 4 from the best team in baseball. We were now just 2.5 games out. That's when I thought to myself "ok, Now we really have a good chance to catch up". Against the Mets at home, we took the first 2 games, It looked like we had a sweep in the third game. Then our bullpen imploded. We lost the game and lost a chance to gain a half game on Atlanta. The following night, we lost to the Cubs to fall 2 back with 5 to go. I said to myself "now it's over." We had had a good run, but it wasn't going to be enough. I was wrong againWe took the final 2 games from the Cubs and thanks to some more Braves losses we were just 1 game out with 3 to play. We lost the first game in Houston but the Braves lost as well. 1 game out with 2 to play. The next night we were down 5-0 early and it looked as if we wouldn't be gaining any ground that night. Then our offense erupted we got back in it, we ended up winning in a rout. With the Braves loss, what had seemed impossible just a month earlier was suddenly reality. The Cardinals and Braves were TIED for the Wild Card with 1 game left to play. Then last night, everything went wild. The Cardinals offense surged yet again, Chris Carpenter was amazing throwing a complete game shutout. and finally the Braves lost allowing the Cardinals to celebrate a Wild Card berth on the final day of the season. After everything the Cardinals had gone through in the regular season, we were still going to the playoffs. Now we get ready to face the best team in baseball in the Division Series. Everyone is saying that the Phillies will beat the Cardinals easy and that we don't stand a chance against them. All i'm going to say is that if the last month of baseball has taught me anything, it's that in this game ANYTHING is possible. We're playing our best baseball of the season, our pitching staff has been great the last month. Kyle Loshe is going game 1 and he's already beaten Roy Halladay and the Phillies once this season. I say if we can get out of Philly tied 1-1 then we have a really good chance at moving on. -Matt Hamilton