Well, I fucked up.
I done fucked up good.
I fucked up so bad you’d think I was a Major League Baseball player grabbing my crotch and gesturing at the pitcher after I strikeout in the final at-bat of my rookie season.
Well, no. I’m not that big of a clown, bro.
But, I did fuck up.
On April 4th of this year, I wrote the following on insideSTL.com:
“When I say I’m scared…I mean I’m scared that I’m not nearly as interested in Opening Day 2012 as I have been in other recent Opening Days.
Are you sharing that feeling with me?
There’s a good chance I’m in the minority. Or, there’s a chance I’m alone. But, I get the vibe that I’m not.
We all experienced it together, and so we all know what I’m getting at. It’ll just be a matter of whether or not you’ve been impacted like I think I may have:
It’ll never get better than 24 hours in October 2011. And, knowing that, I wonder if I’ll ever get that passion back.”
I don’t know if it got better, but it was damn good.
And, I can promise you that the passion is burning.
I’ve followed the Cardinals everyday since I went to my first game on Saturday August 21, 1982. That night, Lonnie Smith hit an inside-the-park home run against the San Francisco Giants. I remember as Smith flew around the bases my Dad saying, “He’s going to get an inside-the-park home run! I’ve never seen this in person!”
The Cardinals won that game.
The next day…Brummer stole home.
Two months later, they won the World Series.
I was hooked.
My guess is there are a lot of five, six, seven, eight, and nine year-old boys and girls around the St. Louis Area who were introduced to Cardinal baseball in the last year, and with what they’ve experienced in the last two Octobers, they’re now hooked for life as well.
Here I am…at 36 years-old…all by myself in my house. My wife’s out of town at a wedding in Austin that I was supposed to go to…but once the Cardinals lost Game 4 forcing a Game 5, I was out on the trip. I knew I would be in lockdown mode Friday night.
Watching the game.
Writing a column.
Acting like a baby.
I’m such a fucking psychopath that I watched 99% of Game 5 without the volume.
Sounds of cheering or Dick Stockton’s attempts at pronouncing Daniel Descalso’s name could send me into full tilt, so I sat on my couch…all by myself…watching a television…in silence.
Sorry, ladies. I’m taken.
I’ve got to be honest with you. When the Cardinals fell behind 6-0, I was ok with it. And, by that I mean…I could live with it. A blowout loss is easier to take---at least for me---than say something like Game 4. Adam Wainwright got rocked? Considering the quality of competitor he is, I was shocked. But, with Gio Gonzalez on the mound and the Cardinals down six, I thought it was over.
Disappointing, but it still was a hell of a 12 months.
So, I start to jack around on Twitter and talk it over with other Cardinal fans.
Remember, I’m a 36 year-old man in a house by myself on a Friday night.
Talking to strangers online is what we do.
But, as the game progresses, I can’t help but notice the Nationals seem to be done hitting…and the Cardinals aren’t.
In the 5th inning, Gio Gonzalez is fading. He’s all over the place. The Cardinals are threatening. The bases are loaded. Gonzalez can’t throw a strike.
Since I have the volume down, I’m under the assumption that Stockton and Bob Brenly are talking about who’s up in the bullpen for the Nationals and if/when Davey Johnson is going to yank Gonzalez.
Then they pan to the bullpen…and no one is up and throwing.
To me…that was a sign of things to come. More on that in a moment.
After having a golden opportunity in the 5th…with Gonzalez on the ropes…Yadier Molina swings at a ball outside the strike zone on 2-0 and flies out to end the inning.
Now, I’m pulled back in.
They actually had a chance…but once again…the middle of the order failed to deliver, and instead of breaking open a huge inning, some questionable at-bats lead to a huge missed opportunity and a 6-3 score.
It’s close enough to be a game…but still…the Cardinals are going through relievers left and right. By the time they came to hit in the 7th, they only had Mitchell Boggs, Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, and Shelby Miller left. If they were going to pull off the miracle comeback, they still needed to get nine outs. Looking at that crew, I see six outs…but it’s tough to see nine. And, if it somehow went to extra innings, well then Fernando Salas would be living in Washington baseball highlight lore forever just like Gorman Thomas around here…because somebody would’ve been walking off following his pitch.
In other words, I wasn’t confident.
…another pleasant surprise:
Davey Johnson brings in Edwin Jackson.
Jackson pitched just two days ago. He was terrible. And Johnson brings him in instead of one of his relievers? Well, what does this say about his feelings on his bullpen outside of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen?
And sure enough…Jon Jay walks and Carlos Beltran doubles.
Second and third. No one out. Tying run at the plate is Matt Holliday.
And…he grounds out. It drives in Jay, but it’s another missed opportunity from Holliday in a key spot.
Craig follows. Craig K’s.
Here we go.
Mr. October (Midwest Regional) is coming to the plate. He can give the Cardinals the lead with a shot to the gap. It’s time for Freese to do his thing once again…
Another huge chance. But, only one run comes in. It’s 6-4.
Six outs left before it’s over.
But, Daniel Descalso leads off the 8th inning with a solo home run, and I’m back to thinking…”Well, maybe.”
That changes quickly.
The Nationals respond in the bottom of the 8th with a two-out two-strike hit off of Motte, and “well maybe” gets downgraded to “well, that’ll do it.”
To the top of the 9th we go…7-5 game. Heart of the order for the Cardinals.
Leading things off…Carlos Beltran, the guy who has been on the short end of the stick in two of the more memorable Cardinal playoff wins: the 2004 NLCS and the 2006 NLCS. The Cardinals want to get him to the World Series.
But, Beltran decides to help his own cause.
He leads off with a double.
At this point, I’m thinking that he’s going to wind up scoring. They’re going to lose 7-6. And that fucking Kurt Suzuki RBI-1B is going to be the difference.
Once again…another shot for Holliday. Once again…he grounds out.
Two outs left.
Can Allen Craig do it?
One out left.
Been here before.
Up comes Yadier Molina.
I’m ready to die. Not like emotionally. I mean I’ve accepted the team’s fate, and I’m just deciding how I’m going to write about Game 5.
As I’m watching Molina hit, I’m thinking to myself, “When is the last time we’ve seen the Cardinals lose a heartbreaking deciding game when they’re at the plate?”
2009 wasn’t heartbreaking. It was a sweep.
2005 was a bad loss in Game 6 for the final game at Busch Stadium II, but it wasn’t much of a game.
2004 was hardly a series.
2002 was indeed heartbreaking…just like 2001…but in both cases, the Giants and Diamondbacks walked off against the Cardinals.
They lost 15-1.
Game 7 was the second-biggest tragedy of that series.
So, the more I thought about it…as I’m sort of watching Molina’s at-bat…the more I realized this will be the first time in my life that the Cardinals will lose a tight deciding elimination game at the plate.
There’s some fascinating stuff for you.
That’s how I filled my time during the Molina at-bat.
Would he ground out? Pop out? He’s not likely to strike out unless Jim Joyce comes in from right field for the final pitch.
Two balls. Two strikes. And,another ball.
How is he laying off of these pitches?
The plate discipline is absurd.
Where was it last Sunday, I’m thinking? Where was it in the 5th inning?
Meanwhile, Freese is on deck…and my mind starts wandering to October 2011. Could he do it again?
Will he get the chance?
Full count on Molina.
Nationals’ fans still quite confident. They just need one pitch. Just one pitch.
Well, well, well.
Up comes Mr. Freese.
Could it happen again?
Three pitches in…it’s not looking too promising.
It’s a 1-2 count.
Just like last year when Neftali Feliz was on the mound, I’m picturing Freese swinging and missing at a ball in the dirt…and the Rangers…now the Nationals…jumping all over each other.
But, I won’t turn away.
Not after last year.
I watch closely.
And on 1-2, Freese checks his swing on a ball low and away.
The Nationals appeal to first.
Did he go?
The umpire says no.
In my opinion, he went.
Two things: 1. Similar to last week with Chipper Jones’ last at-bat and the base hit he was given on a bad call, the umpire didn’t want to have his appeal be the end of this game and series. 2. The first base umpire, Ed Hickox, hadn’t been giving strikes on check swings all night.
The Cardinals get a break…in my opinion.
Freese is still alive.
And, you know what?
Drew Storen is now raging on the mound.
The Washington closer feels like he just won the game…and Hickox took it away from him.
He is beside himself out there.
His next pitch is a ball.
Storen’s yelling into his glove like Jason Motte on meth. He’s furious.
And it matters…
…as Freese lays off another pitch for a walk.
Bases fucking loaded.
Storen is losing it. Suzuki goes out to the mound. Meltdown in process.
But, all he needs to do is throw one pitch to get Daniel Descalso out…and it’s over.
Nationals’ fans are standing. Silent. Scared. They haven’t been here before, but they know whatever that feeling is that they’re getting isn’t a good indication.
Off the glove of Ian Desmond.
Two runs score. We’re all tied up. You’ve got to be kidding me.
I’m screaming in my living room. Jumping up and down like a 12 year-old…except I’m in my mid-30’s built like a 12 year-old.
The Cardinals, down to their last strike for the second time in the game…and the second time that happened in less than a year, do it again.
If you happened to be at Minute Maid Park in 2005 the moment Albert Pujols’ ball landed on the railroad tracks after Brad Lidge delivered it, my guess is it sounded similar to what Nationals Park sounded like after that hit.
I’m like Jack Palance in City Slickers. He could hear gold in those hills. I can hear holes tightening.
And, this is where Davey Johnson blew it.
Told you we’d get to it.
Just took a few dozen wandering paragraphs to get you there.
I’ve been up for close to 24 hours. Work with me.
Here’s the situation:
Runners on 1st and 3rd. Two out. Tied at 7.
Pete Kozma up.
Jason Motte’s spot on deck.
The Cardinals have Salas, Rzepczynski, and Shelby Miller in the bullpen.
I don’t need to go into much detail here for you.
Mike Matheny wasn’t going to have Shelby Miller make his playoff debut in the bottom of the 9th of a tie game on the road.
I personally would have…considering the other options.
But, if Motte’s out of the game, you know, and I know, it was Salas time.
Summertime is made for swimming. Salas time is made for losing.
Just get Motte out of the game…and the Nationals are in much better shape than the Cardinals, because the Cardinals are almost out of pitchers…and they’re out of position players.
First base is open after Descalso takes it on what’s called a steal but could’ve been called fielders’ indifference.
All Davey Johnson has to do to get Jason Motte out of the game and Fernando Salas into it is have Storen give Kozma the intentional walk.
Tony Cruz was on deck. He would’ve hit in the pitcher’s spot and then taken over for Molina, who had been pinch run for by Chambers You’re My Boy.
But, most likely in absolute shock, Johnson does nothing.
And it almost worked out just fine.
Sure, Motte would’ve returned to the mound…but at least it would be tied.
Kozma was down 0-2 before he could even get settled in.
But, on 2-2 Kozma submitted his application for acceptance into the Tom Lawless Fraternity. Kozma’s shot down the right field line drove in two, and the Cardinals had the lead.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
I couldn’t believe it.
I’m acting like a bigger asshole than normal. Screaming at no one in particular.
Because of Davey’s Blunder, Motte gets to come up and hit for himself…and then go out to the mound to finish this thing off.
Johnson didn’t get anybody up in the 5th when Gio was losing it, but he survived.
He sent Edwin Jackson out there in the 7th when he was pitching on one day’s rest, but he survived.
And, with a base open and a meaningless hitter at the plate, a great manager missed an opportunity to get a great closer out of the game…and by not pitching around Pete Kozma to get Motte out…Johnson did not survive. He signed the 2012 Washington Nationals’ death certificate.
Outside of Bryce Harper grabbing his cock after striking out in the bottom of the 9th, the half-inning was uneventful…until the final out was squeezed in Descalso’s glove.
Then it was batshittery in the middle of the field.
They’d done it again.
These guys pulled it off again.
But, this time it was coming back from a 6-0 deficit with a Cy Young contender on the mound. This time it was on the road. This time it was in an elimination game for both teams.
This time somehow seems more insane than the last time.
You can watch 162 games of regular season baseball and not see your team---or any team---get down to its last strike twice…and then come back to win the game.
These guys did it twice in their last eight postseason games.
That’s fun math.
How about this?
One out of every four times they take the field in the playoffs, they play one of the most memorable games of all time.
Fuck. Don’t sell your tickets for Game 4 of the NLCS.
I’d gather the Giants will be up by about 17 runs with two down in the 9th, but that damn David Freese will do it again.
What a night.
What a game.
What a team.
Honestly, even if they lost---as much as I hate this type of shit---I was going to praise them for not allowing it to turn into a Game 7 1996 NLCS in Atlanta kind of deal, because I was wondering if it was headed in that direction. Yet there they were…grinding. These guys grind, man.
They’re a nightmare for the opposition.
Not only are they quite talented, but they’re relentless.
What we saw last night was one for the ages. And yet it was the second “one for the ages” these guys have played in the last year. And, in both cases, they didn’t become “for the ages” until their backs were absolutely against the wall.
You can be a fan of a team for a lifetime and not experience the number of euphoric moments the Cardinals have given their fans over the last 12 months.
Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at email@example.com.