In what will turn out to be a two-part series, as I am spending both Friday and Saturday nights in the St. Louis Cardinals press box, the first game had plenty of intrigue. First and foremost, I want to thank Dave Nemetz for making this all possible. But without further ado, I give you the first installment.
Tonight's game was a classic pitcher's duel, and it looked as though St. Louis Cardinals' starter Braden Looper would claim the victory. That, however, turned out to be a fallacy, as closer Chris Perez gave up a home run to Mike Jacobs on a 2-1 pitch in the top of the ninth inning. Jacobs' blast was his 29th of the season, and it tied the game up, wasting Looper's magnificent performance.
In fact, Looper and Florida Marlins' starter Ricky Nolasco combined to throw 14.1 innings, surrendering just one run, a single in the seventh inning off the bat of Adam Kennedy, scoring Albert Pujols from second.
With this loss, the Redbirds have just two wins in their last ten games, and are reeling. If they want to get the NL Wild Card berth, the next two games against the Marlins must be victories.
The rest of the game, however, was phenomenal. Although I showed up to the stadium quite early, 3:30 p.m., for a 7:15 p.m. start, there was non-stop excitement throughout.
Unlike my first experience as a member of the media covering the Cardinals, the nerves were not there, and I felt as though I could approach the players without worrying or being shy. It did help that the teams were taking batting practice this time, though, because all the players were available to speak before the game.
After the players were finished with BP, I was able to speak with infielders Brendan Ryan and Felipe Lopez about their current situations.
I first congratulated Ryan on being back in the bigs after a month-long stint at Triple-A Memphis. Next though, it was down to business. I asked Ryan what it is like being called up in the middle of a playoff push.
Ryan seemed very optomistic. "It would obviously be nice to be five games ahead, rather than five behind, but I still think we have a chance."
Additionally, he noted that the Cardinals definitely have the capability to run off a winning streak. "Say we win 9 out of 10, that probably puts us right in the thick of things," Ryan said. "We will let the chips fall where they may and see what happens."
Regarding a more personal subject, I asked Ryan what his plans were for the upcoming 2009 season. He was incredibly realistic, noticing that he most likely won't be in the starting lineup.
"It's always nice when you're a starter, but for right now, I am fine with my bench role," Ryan said. "I am just looking forward to having a good winter-ball season, and then a quality spring training as well."
Lopez, on the other hand, was pretty brief with his answers. Through my game notes, I found that Lopez is hitting .377 in 21 games with the Cardinals, and so I asked him why he has had such a resurgence.
His answer was simple: "When I'm happy, I play good."
As I continued to collect notes up in the press box, I couldn't help but notice the extraordinary power that the Marlins' bats had. At the end of their BP session, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla took turns having a home run show for the crowd.
Although the Cardinals blew the last one-run lead and eventually lost 4-1 in 11 innings, I felt as though I learned a ton from this experience.
As I did in my previous entry, I kept a journal log of key experiences.
3:32 p.m.- Enter the press office where I obtain my credentials.
3:56 p.m.- Third base coach Jose Oquendo hits groundballs for infielders as Ricky Nolasco works out in the Marlins' bullpen.
4:04 p.m.- Slightly dark sky, 64 degrees, felt a lot worse.
4:17 p.m.- Pitchers toss around a frisbee as a pregame warm-up, then take part in the "Confidence Fall". Adam Wainwright stands in the bleachers and falls backwards, as his fellow Cardinals' pitchers catch him.
5:04 p.m.- Albert Pujols starts to take batting practice, hitting many towering home runs out of the park.
5:24 p.m.- I interview Lopez on the field, as he is walking back to the clubhouse.
5:29 p.m.- I speak with Brendan Ryan after his batting practice is complete.
6:02 p.m.- Uggla and Ramirez have their "slugfest".
7:17 p.m.- First pitch, 63 degrees, sellout crowd of 42,366.
I hope you liked it! I appreciate all feedback! Look forward to an interview with Olympian Brian Barden in tomorrow's Part II!