Game 5 to Texas

At least St Louis fans will see a World Champion crowned in person.

I see the Rangers left only two fewer guys on than the Cardinals did.  Texas was 2 for 7 with RISP; St Louis was a mind-boggling 1 for 12.  Five of those 12 at bats were taken by Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker.  At least Skip drove in a run; Punto struck out twice, once looking with one out and a man on second.  Punto wasn’t the only guy to blame, however; Craig struck out in the fifth with one out and runners on second and third.  Then there’s the abortion of a seventh inning, where the Cardinals got a single and three walks and yet failed to score.

Should they lose this series, I believe last night’s futility will replace the Game 2 ninth-inning meltdown as the turning point.  As a segue, isn’t it funny how often a team follows an offensive explosion with an inability to score?  Since hanging 16 on Texas in Game 3 St Louis has scored two runs in 18 innings.

Looks like Mike Napoli is the MVP favorite for the series.  (I can hear Angels fans grinding their teeth right now.)  He would not have had the opportunity to send a ball to the track in RC had Rzepczynski fielded David Murphy’s ground ball cleanly.  And what the heck was Tim McCarver talking about – that ball was hit too slowly to turn a double play?  Really?  If Scrabble fields it cleanly it’s 1-6-3 and the inning is over.  If he was talking about after Marc tipped it, well DUH – it was deflected, taking a lot of the kinetic energy away from the ball.

None of that matters if the Cardinals can drive a run in scoring position earlier in the game.  Napoli’s RBI double probably just draws the Rangers closer (or ties it) vice giving them the win.  Assuming the rest of the game played out the way it actually did, which as we noted after Game 3, is a bit of a stretch.

All right.  This Cardinals team has not done anything the easy way yet this season, why start now?  Let’s take a look at how the franchise has done historically in these situations.

In the 40 years that Busch Memorial Stadium II existed (1966-2005), it hosted a World Series clinching game three times:  1968 Game 7, 1982 Game 7, 2004 Game 4.  Cardinals lost two of those three games.  In the six years Neo-Busch has existed, it will see 2.  St Louis won their only opportunity six years ago.  So there’s that.  The last time the Cardinals went home down 3-2 in the World Series was that 1982 championship; they blew Milwaukee out 13-1 in Game 6 (a game lengthened by rain; seems relevant based on the weather forecast for tomorrow) and won the finale 6-3.

The last time they were down 3-2 in any post season series was 2005.  They came home down 3-2 to Houston in that NLCS, two days after Pujols’ legendary blast off Brad Lidge.  Roy Oswalt shut them down, leading Houston to their only NL pennant. 

Distill all that down into these two facts:  (a) anything can happen over the final two games; (b) based on his Game 2 start Colby Lewis is every bit as nasty as Oswalt was 7 years ago.  St Louis has their work cut out for them as they try to extend this series to a Seventh Game.

I’ve given up trying to predict what will happen.  All I know is the roller coaster ride that has defined the 2011 season is almost over.  When the playoffs started, I was just happy to see this team make it.  Now that they sit two games away from the prize, I’d like to see them complete the journey.  There can be only one.

UPDATE/Full Disclosure:  Um, yeah.  I turned the game off right after Napoli cruised into second, so I missed all the relief pitcher nonsense that took place after his hit.   That’s why there’s no reference to it above.  Now that I know what happened, well, the Cardinals played like Arlington had been sucked into The Twilight Zone, so a relief pitcher SNAFU blamed on a bad phone connection doesn’t surprise me.

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