The St. Louis Cardinals reminded the fanbase on Thursday evening that they don’t like to do anything the easy way.
In 2011, the Cardinals couldn’t win the division. Instead, they backed their way into the wild-card seat by combining an epic run with the Atlanta Braves' epic collapse.
In 2011, the Cardinals lost Game 1 of the National League Division Series to the Philadelphia Phillies. In that same series, they failed to go up 2-1 when they lost their home opener of the playoffs by a score of 5-4.
The Cardinals wrapped up the NLDS in 2011 by surviving one of the greatest postseason pitching duels of all time between best friends Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay.
The Cardinals advanced.
The 2011 National League Championship was more of the same. The Cardinals lost Game 1 to the Milwaukee Brewers. They needed six games to show their true colors.
The World Series was no different, aside from the Game 1 win. When the Texas Rangers returned to St. Louis for two games, needing only one for the trophy, the Cardinals' chances were slim at very best.
Twice in Game 6, the Cardinals waited until they were one strike from elimination to make the magic happen. Twice, they got the job done.
The improbable 2011 Cardinals finally did the nearly impossible.
The 2012 Cardinals are virtually the same. Sure, the names and faces are different, but the scenario is the same.
The Cardinals climbed their way into the 2012 Wild Card. Better records in June and July could very well have put the Cardinals on top of the division. That would have been too easy.
The Cardinals did take advantage of beating the teams they should have beaten in September, the Houston Astros and the Chicago Cubs. Of course, they also beat the Cincinnati Reds and these same Washington Nationals.
The first-ever NL Wild Card playoff was far from easy for the Cardinals. Between goofy calls and working out of jams, this team had to drag itself out of there (amidst a storm of flying bottles, nonetheless.)
The National League Division Series would surely be more of the same.
The Cardinals all but gave away Game 1 of the series. One call not made, and that game may very well have gone to the Cardinals.
With a chance to potentially wrap up the series early in Game 4, Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse came out with a vengeance, but the offense fizzled. Eventually, that made the difference.
As a result, Nationals fans got a good dose of October magic, and the Cardinals will once again take the long way.
The Cardinals are 5-0 in elimination games dating back through 2011. That bodes well for the team.
Nothing about this game will be easy, though. Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez is looking to prove himself after his Game 1 sputter, and the home crowd will be pumped.
The Cardinals have to put a stop to both, along with a potent Washington offense.
It won’t be easy, but did you really expect it to be?