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NLCS Game 6: Random Observations And Stuff

Sweet weekend.

Barry Zito owns the Cardinals.

Sam Bradford regresses in front of a hostile crowd…owned at home.

And, the Cardinals get owned for a second time by Ryan Vogelsong…while the Giants do some owning of Chris Carpenter…for a second time.

Ownership galore..but no wins to be found.

But, I will tell you this: throughout this entire season---even though I doubted him numerous times…including the one-game play-in against the Braves---Kyle Lohse has been rock solid.

With a rotation featuring a former Cy Young in Chris Carpenter and a near Cy Young in Adam Wainwright, there’s no one I’d rather have on the mound tonight in San Francisco than Kyle Lohse.

We went to dinner Saturday night with my in-laws, and my father-in-law is a huge baseball fan. Naturally, we were talking about the NLCS, and I told him I feel better about the Cardinals in Game 7 than I do in Game 6.

Why?

Two reasons:

1.    I don’t have faith in Chris Carpenter at this moment. I know that’s easy to say in what looks like after the fact…but you can take a look at my columns recently and see that this isn’t the first time I’ve said that. And, in Game 7, the Cardinals will have the emotionless Kyle Lohse on the mound. Perfect for a road Game 7.

2.    And, I like the Cardinals’ chances against Matt Cain better than I liked their chances against Ryan Vogelsong. I realize Cain is more of the household name, but Vogelsong has owned the Cardinals since coming back from nowhere to become a force for the Giants.

Now, unfortunately, if Lohse shits the bed…and/or if the Cardinals continue to fail to hit the Giants’ pitchers…there is no tomorrow.

Oooh…let me add another: if the Cardinal defense puckers again, there is no tomorrow.

Lance Lynn. David Freese. Pete Kozma.

They’ve all played critical roles in the few runs the Giants have scored. Just like Friday night, the Cardinals kicked it around and/or tightened up and allowed the Giants unearned runs.

With that all out there…the Cardinals have gotten beaten the last two nights.

I’m not sure they were beaten in a game against the Nationals. The blew Game 1, and Jim Joyce tainted Game 4. That was a carnival of nitwittery.

But, in the three they’ve lost to the Giants, they were beaten.

Quite honestly, considering the Giants blew Cain’s start in Game 3, the Cardinals are fortunate that this thing is even still going.

I wouldn’t make a good columnist, because I can’t start attacking the manager…or attacking the players…if I see that “my” team got beat.

That happens.

Based on what I’ve seen sent to me via email/Twitter, many fans are angry.

Trust me…as someone who lived through 1985, 1987, and 1996, I can relate to your frustration. However, the Cardinals---as a whole---have been beaten by the Giants over the last couple of games.

You’re welcome to email me, tweet me, or leave comments below chastising me for my opinion. And, of course, you’re welcome to dissent.

However, I’m not too upset as I write this column…because they were just flat-out beaten.

The shame of this whole deal is that they are letting a really subpar lineup score runs with not much offense on their part. But, the Giants’ “not much offense” is a hell of a lot better than the damn-near zero production the Cardinals are putting up.

But, the Giants are taking advantage of some crappy pitching from the Cardinal starters…and then you’ll notice…they don’t do shit after the starters leave the game and/or after the Cardinals stop kicking/throwing the ball around.

That’s not a coincidence.

Chris Carpenter didn’t have it…again.

Hopefully this is a question the Cardinals will have to answer---and please, please, please spare me the “don’t talk about the World Series…we have to worry about tonight” crap…as if a discussion is going to impact what happens in San Francisco---but I have no idea what the hell the Cardinals would do for a rotation should they win tonight.

Adam Wainwright in Game 1. Kyle Lohse in Game 3. 

Got it.

And then what?

But, it’s clear…if the San Francisco Giants are hitting you hard…something’s not right…and something’s not right with Chris Carpenter.

I’ve had people ask me, “How does a lineup go into a slump all at one time?”

The answer: they’re all facing the same pitcher…and that pitcher is on.

The hope for tonight is that Cain is a little off…and Lohse is back to the guy we saw in Atlanta and Game 4 in Washington. The guy that pitched Game 3 of the NLCS isn’t going to cut it tonight. He was off…but the Giants didn’t capitalize.

You can light me up if I’m wrong…if that’s how you like to vent your frustration…but I really don’t worry about Kyle Lohse tonight.

It’s going to come down to Matt Cain and the Cardinal offense.

Who’s going to win that battle?

If Lohse is off, the Cardinals have the bullpen---the key guys---locked and loaded, ready and rested.

But, if Cain is on, it’s not likely going to matter.

I just think that the Cardinals can get to Cain. I wasn’t too confident that they could get to Vogelsong.

Now, I realize it feels like a loss is inevitable tonight.

And, unfortunately, the math would back that feeling up.

Not-so-fun facts:

1.    In the history of the game, only two teams have won a Game 7 after being up 3-1 at home, losing Game 5 at home, and losing Game 6 on the road: The 1967 Cardinals and the 1972 A’s.
2.    Since 1975, there have been 14 Game 7’s when the home team forced a Game 7 by winning Game 6. The home team has won 13 of those Game 7’s. The only exception: the 2006 Cardinals beating the 2006 Mets at Shea Stadium. Oh, and by the way, Chris Carpenter lost Game 6 in that series as well.

On the other hand (something you will no doubt hear about 50 times today…and that may be low), this group of players have had their backs against the wall so many damn times over the last 13 months, you’d have to think the crowd, the circumstances, and the magnitude of the moment won’t overwhelm them.

Chasing the Braves in 2011…

...beating the Phillies in Game 5…

…Game 6 of the World Series…

…Game 7 of the World Series…

…surging to win the second Wild Card this year…

…beating the Braves in Atlanta…

…coming back from 6-0 down in Washington…

…they’ve been through so much, and I just have to think that they won’t roll over.

But, I’ll tell you this: over the last couple of games, there have been uncharacteristic plays made in pressure situations (Lynn, Freese, and Kozma) that don’t speak well to the current mindset. Hopefully it’s a fluke…but those aren’t plays that were made---or not made should I say---when the team is right.

If they allow two more unearned runs, they’ll set a record for most unearned runs allowed in a postseason by any club. They’re currently at 12. The record is 13 set by the 1986 Angels…one of the most infamous teams in recent baseball playoff history.

They need Jay to get going. They---really---need Craig (.150) to get going. And, Mr. October (Midwest Regional) has gone quiet with a .217 average.

I can’t speak to what happened in 1968 when the Cardinals blew a 3-1 series lead against the Tigers. I know about Curt Flood slipping in Game 7, but I obviously don’t know the details of the collapse. I was barely nine years-old when the Cardinals lost a 3-1 lead against the Royals in 1985…and you don’t have to be from St. Louis or Kansas City to know the story there. And, in 1996, the Cardinals just weren’t as good as the Braves. I know they had a 3-1 lead, but they were incredibly fortunate to be in that spot…and now having seen the kind of championship clubs that have been around here since 2000, the 1996 Cardinals wouldn’t be in the same discussion as any of the Cardinal playoff teams over the last 12 years.

So…if this team blows a 3-1 lead, how will history remember them?

The word that would get tossed around is “choke,” which, considering what they’ve done in the last 13 months would seem awfully ridiculous to throw their way. I mean, when you’ve won elimination game after elimination game---many away from home---it’s tough to call a team chokers.

Neither of these losses have had tight, late-inning situations that called for someone to rise to the occasion…or someone to “choke” under that pressure.

I’d be anxious to see how the Giants would handle a late-inning tight situation.

But, the Cardinals will have to do something offensively in order to put them in that spot.

I’m sure many people are heartbroken right now…feeling like the end is near and inevitable.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel good. This isn't fun. But, I just wouldn’t rule the Cardinals---and Kyle Lohse, in particular---out.

If it were Carpenter going against Vogelsong tonight---and so help me I would’ve said this before Game 6…although I’m sure no one believes me---I wouldn’t have much hope.

I’d much rather have it be Bumgarner or Lincecum than Cain…but I wouldn’t want to see a soft-tossing lefty (Zito), and I sure as hell wouldn’t want to see Vogelsong.

And, there’s no one I’d rather have out there right now than Kyle Lohse.

But, the Cardinals have to get some hits.

Give him a lead.

See if the Giants can score runs without the Cardinals kicking the ball around.

If it ends tonight, then so be it.

No baseball fan base has had a better ride over the last 13 months than Cardinals’ fans.

No one is even close.

If blowing a 3-1 lead is the way the run ends, then so be it.

I still wouldn’t trade what I’ve experienced as a Cardinal fan since September 2011 with any other time as a Cardinal fan.

The one thing that I’d find to be quite a shame---because he didn’t experience 2011---would be the way Carlos Beltran’s season would end…again.

He was on the wrong end of the Cardinal comeback in 2004. His Astros were up 3-2.

He was on the wrong end of the Adam Wainwright hook in 2006.

And, now he would be on the wrong end of a 3-1 blown lead.

How many players have never been to the World Series…but yet played in three NLCS’s with three different teams…and lost in Game 7 of every one of them?

I can’t imagine there’s many…if any.

I’d love to see Beltran cap off his career with a big night…and the Cardinals get him to that World Series that has eluded him.

Pitching and defense.

The offense has understandably taken the heat…but the pitching and defense haven’t been there either.

Play the Cardinal baseball that’s gotten you to this point…and make it seven straight victories in winner-take-all games.

Game on.

Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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freaknastysugarcookies
# freaknastysugarcookies
Monday, October 22, 2012 1:29 AM
Went to game 5 with some friends and relatives, and we discussed all things cardinals, and when the topic of holiday came up we all agreed he is the kinda of guy who disapeers when you need him most. We talked about hwo he got picked off at 3rd in game 6, then of course was too hurt to play after that.........then before game 5 even started the question came up as to how he would get hurt this post season if things got interesting in the nlcs or world series.......and low and behold back spams.........for all the good the guy does during the regular season admittedly carrying us from time to time year in year out, just seems he cannot be counted on when you need him.

Are we crazy or is there something to it?
Mike in South City
# Mike in South City
Monday, October 22, 2012 7:35 AM
freaknasty...have you ever considered the possibility that Holliday is actually hurt? Have you ever had a bad back? It's kind of hard to do much with a back injury. Hell, watching him play, it appears he is having difficulty even picking a ball up off the ground.

My hope is Lohse is fisting Schumaker when game 7 ends.

Go Cards!!! Whatever happens tonight, it's been a hell of a ride!
freaknastysugarcookies
# freaknastysugarcookies
Monday, October 22, 2012 8:03 AM
yes i considered that. is why i asked and to see if anyone else had that idea about him.......i dont know, just seems like he is that guy. i am probably wrong. just wondering
Rudy's Liver
# Rudy's Liver
Monday, October 22, 2012 4:44 PM
agree totally freaknasty...the guy has been a total choke come playoff time. You failed to mention the can of corn he dropped in LA in 09 that cost them any chance at that series. the way it looks to me, he just can't handle the pressure at the most critical times.

And if he's really hurt, then why the heck is he playing? He couldn't play game 6 after an off day but now he's well enough to play game 7 24 hours later? You can't have it both ways. He's either hurt and shouldn't be out there putting himself ahead of the team or he's not hurt and setting up excuses for him failing. I prefer the guy that pulls himself from the lineup when he knows he can't perform. Give somebody else a chance who has the stones to handle the pressure.

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