Why could the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals be called first-rate representatives of Missouri—the Show Me State? Will they continue to show the world what they’re made of character wise and win the NLCS against their heated division rivals?
The Cardinals and the Brewers split 18 regular season games with the Cardinals getting hot late in the season and erasing Milwaukee’s huge edge in face-to-face games won this year.
Starting this afternoon, they will face off for a best-of-seven series with the winner advancing to the 2011 World Series. Sitting in the catbird seat after dispatching the NL’s No. 1-seeded Philadelphia Phillies, the Cardinals are the hottest team swinging in the playoffs.
The Cards began the season on a negative note, as they received word ace Adam Wainwright was done for the season before spring training. Then their best swinger, slugger, hitter and offensive weapon—Albert Pujols—began the season in a woeful slump.
Pujols was hitting into double plays at an almost record pace, and St. Louis went on to lead the NL in batting into the twin killers. They also led the NL in almost every other offensive category and kept their heads above water long enough to take over first place in the competitive NL Central.
Lest we forget, the up and down Cardinals were in first place for much of the season before the Brewers overtook them after the All-Star game. Fans in St. Louis were having visions of yet another second-half collapse by the Redbirds.
Being from the Gateway to the West, myself, it’s understandable; to whom much is given much is expected. The Cards received the best support from fans over the last century of any MLB team, and they’ve lived up to expectations since September after breaking down thanks in part to the Milwaukee Brewers.
After the Brew Crew beat the Cardinals in Miller Park in the fateful bean ball war game, Tony LaRussa’s and catcher Yadier Molina’s frustrations showed. The Cardinals were struggling and blaming others.
One of the NL’s best closers last season, Ryan Franklin had been shown the door and the bullpen showed they couldn’t close the door until Jason Motte stepped up to have an outstanding run, circa July.
Since late July after the Colby Rasmus trade through August, rumblings have been heard in reasoning on the Mississippi River near Busch Stadium about Tony LaRussa and general manager John Mozeliak being shown the door.
Adam Wainwright wasn’t walking through that door. Matt Holliday and David Freese were often hurt walking through that door. Ozzie Smith wasn’t walking through that door. Tommie Herr wasn’t walking through that door.
Then Mozeliak and LaRussa brought Rafael Furcal through that door. He walked in and provided a defensive spark the Redbirds had been missing all season.
Furcal shut the door on a hard hit ground ball by catcher Carlos Ruiz and helped Chris Carpenter slam it on the once mighty Phillies. It was one of the best defensive plays by a shortstop in the playoffs since Derek Jeter cut the ball off near home plate and tossed Jeremy Giambi out.
Furcal’s diving and spinning peg-out of Ruiz in the eighth inning was the play of the game. His triple to start the game was the offensive play of the game. The former NL Rookie of the Year conjured memories of Ozzie Smith.
I’d say Furcal is a keeper.
He kept hope alive for St. Louis’ first World Series title since 2006. Furcal’s new team is making their sixth trip to the NLCS in the last 12 years.
They’ll need Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson to come close to Carpenter’s three-hit shutout gem generated in Philly. It was his third shutout in his last seven starts.
It was a duel with his close friend and former teammate with the Toronto Blue Jays—a pitcher’s duel of the utmost entertainment. The 1-0 victory sent the Cardinals to a matchup with the NL Central heroes.
The hero of the Arizona-Milwaukee series was Nyjer T-Plush or T-Clutch Morgan, or whatever you want to call him. The Cardinals will want to dial his number and ring him up for strikeouts.
He was involved in a heated altercation with Pujols and referred to Big Albert with an unflattering name. Now, Pujols can make Plush eat those words. Maybe Morgan’s mouth will come back to haunt him in the NLCS.
Maybe LaRussa’a mouth during the Lightgate at Miller Park game will haunt the Redbirds. There will be some haunting going on, but St. Louis was haunted before the season started and now they’ve shown the world what’s up.
That’s why they are first-rate Show Me State reps, and they will continue to show and prove their characters. All of Missouri is proud; the Cardinals have shown and will show their true spirits of St. Louis.
In the spirit of good entertainment, catch my next Bleacher Report column right here on Lake’s Show Me St. Louis Redbirds Report.
Notes: The Cardinals have appeared in the NLCS under LaRussa (1996-present) seven times: 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004-6 and 2011.
-This is the first appearance in the NLCS for Milwaukee.
-The Redbirds defeated the Brewers in the 1982 World Series.
-The Redbirds have won a total of 10 World Series championships—second only to the New York Yankees.
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