Do you know what the Phillies, Brewers & Braves all have in common? They each rolled over and died in the NL playoffs against the Cardinals. For good measure we can add the Rangers from last year’s World Series, too.
I suppose at some point I’ve got to give the Cardinals credit, which I begrudgingly did after St. Louis won the championship last year. But for goodness sake, why is it teams forget how to pitch effectively, field the ball and hit in the clutch against the Cards?
Is St. Louis really that much better of a club than its opponents, or is the opposition simply giving games away the way I believe they are?
Let’s go back to last October…
Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt & Roy Halladay allow a combined 14-earned runs against St. Louis in the NLDS. In the decisive Game 5 Philadelphia committed more errors (2) than runs scored (0) finishing off its pathetic series (1-2) at home and essentially put a clown nose on its 102-win regular season.
The Brewers were then outscored by 17 total runs in the 6-game NLCS series while committing an unheard of 9 errors…NINE! And despite the most home wins in the majors during the regular season (57), Milwaukee went just (1-2) at Miller Park in the series.
In the Fall Classic the Cardinals outscored the Rangers by 8-runs, thanks in large part to a 16-7 drubbing in Game 3 at Texas. But the Rangers then blew a 3-run lead after 7 innings and a 2-run lead in the top of the 10th in Game 6.
In fact, the Cards were down to its final strike before David Freese delivered his game-tying triple in the bottom of the 9th…and then a game-winning walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th. And to make matters worse, Texas made 8 fielding errors in the 7-game series…EIGHT!
And what did we see Friday in Atlanta? The Braves, with the highest fielding percentage in the league, committed 3 errors leading to 3 unearned runs in a 6-3 loss.
The Braves also had not lost behind its starting pitcher, Chris Medlen, in his last 23-starts–the longest such streak in modern baseball history! Not only that, but the Braves also had home field advantage in the 1-game play-in but still blew it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fuming over the Cards’ performance. Heck, I wish the Cubs were half the opportunist St. Louis has been in the postseason. But what the heck’s going on with the rest of the Senior Circuit?
Is it just my personal dislike for the Cardinals that’s preventing me from validating St. Louis’ October success…or am I not the only one who’s ticked the rest of the National League is pulling a choke job worthy of the Cubs’ approval?
Heaven help me if the Nationals fall in line with the rest of the NL when it comes to finishing off the Cardinals. But quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do…everyone else seemingly has.
Maybe St. Louis is just that good…or maybe not? Either way, I just wish somebody would make the Cardinals earn a postseason series instead of giving it away. At least then I could live with it.
The infield fly call was a bad one, and I don’t care if it was technically the right call within the rules.
It’s a judgment call by the umpire…and his judgment was off, which is evident in the replay. The umpire’s call came too late to begin with, and unfortunately, killed what could have been a game-changing rally for Atlanta.
But it’s hardly the reason the Braves lost the game. Three fielding errors led to three unearned runs…and the Braves lost by those three unearned runs 6-3. That can’t happen in the postseason, especially when you’re statistically the best fielding team in the league, as the Braves are.
“Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror,”… “We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest.” –Chipper Jones
And let’s not forget the Braves were the beneficiary of a late timeout call at the plate in the second inning, one which gave David Ross another cut…the result of which landed the next pitch in the bleachers for an early 2-0 lead.
That particular bad call actually changed the game on the scoreboard, whereas the blown infield fly ruling did not.
The Braves, not the umpires, decided the outcome of this game, and per the usual, the Cardinals were happy to take advantage.
However, hats off to Fredi Gonzalez for handling the loss with class. He didn’t gripe or complain (at least from what I heard) but simply shouldered the blame for his team’s poor fielding.
I can only hope Davey Johnson won’t have to do the same following the NLDS.
I’ve posted before how the standings on July Fourth are typically a good indicator of which teams will make the playoffs.
I wasn’t so sure the addition of a second wild card would affect the postseason races all that much over the final three months, but it certainly has with the season drawing to its dramatic close on Wednesday.
Here’s a quick look at the division leaders on the Fourth of July: Yankees, White Sox, Rangers | Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers.
And the wild cards: Orioles, Angels…Giants, Reds.
As we can see, only two of the division leaders went on to close the deal (Yankees, Nationals) and only one wild card team (Orioles) finished where they were on July Fourth.
The Giants and Reds, of course, ascended to division titles and the Rangers still slipped in as a wild card. Even the Cardinals, winners of the second wild card, were just a game back of its place on July 4.
So nearly half the field in postseason-position on July Fourth didn’t make the cut (White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers & Angels).
What’s more, three other teams reached the postseason despite a sub .500 record at the Fourth of July (Detroit, Oakland & Atlanta). Coincidentally, all three were in third place in their respective divisions at the time.
One could argue a second wild card did little to spice up the races considering all three AL division titles were decided by 3 or fewer games…the NL East was a close race in the Senior Circuit…and the other two NL divisions were blowouts anyway.
But the beauty of the second wild card, however, kept postseason hopes alive in those tight division races with teams fighting for home field advantage and to avoid the single elimination wild card play-in game.
The wild cards also made for meaningful baseball games among teams like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Tampa and Anaheim…not to mention, held out hope during the collapse of division leaders on the South Side of Chicago, Chavez Ravine, Texas and Pittsburgh.
In its first season the extra wild cards have been everything baseball fans, including myself, had hoped it would be…perhaps making those Fourth of July predictions much more precarious than they use to be.
The advantage of two additional playoff spots is two-fold for baseball and its fans.
1.) There’s exciting potential to make September baseball more meaningful for more teams.
2.) Teams with playoff worthy records won’t be slighted due to divisional circumstances.
The Wild Card races felt a lot like March Madness. Crazy comebacks, buzzer beater-like endings and wild scenes of jubilation!
It was a night like no other in MLB history–and one we won’t soon forget–having witnessed the completion of two of the biggest September collapses ever!
What’s more, the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves were all within one out of victory, but lost.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay rallied from seven runs down. Baltimore touched up Jonathan Papelbon for just his third blown save of the season, and the Cardinals advanced behind Chris Carpenter’s complete game gem.
The last was my only disappointment of the evening. Watching a shirtless Ryan Theriot celebrate with his Cardinal teammates, fully knowing the Cubs should have eliminated St. Louis this past weekend, was somewhat irritating. But otherwise, what a terrific night for MLB and its fans.