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NLCS Game 3 Diary: A Rope of Sand

In Baseball, Long form on October 18, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Like modern-day Hatfields and McCoys, Crim Del Harris writers Ian Brickey and Sam Sutton love their baseball teams and (for the next week or so) hate each other.

Pregame

IB: It’s that time of the year again. The leaves are changing, the air is crisp, and bunting decorates the stands of a select few stadiums. Yes, playoff baseball (or, as it’s known in Pittsburgh, the off-season) is back.

After an exciting wild card round was followed by four five-game League Division Series — including a pair of improbable upsets — baseball’s final four teams are battling each other for a ticket to the World Series. In the American League, the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees square off in a series that has been dominated by Detroit’s fearsome pitching core, while the National League boasts two teams in the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals that, on paper — and in the series standings — appear evenly matched.

As a Cardinal fan, it’s been an exciting postseason thus far. After the 2011 club’s dramatic championship run (which rivals certain works of Shakespeare and exceeds a certain 2004 Jimmy Fallon vehicle), it was hard to imagine what an encore would look like in 2012. But the Cardinals haven’t disappointed this postseason, knocking out the favored Atlanta Braves in the wild card round and coming from behind to defeat the upstart Washington Nationals. With their ninth postseason appearance in the last 13 seasons, the Cardinals have been one of the most consistently successful teams in the NL.

SS: Wow, you really love foliage and bunting.

Know what I love? Small market teams knocking out big-budget contenders in the first round. Foliage is cool and all that, but seeing 35,000 Bernie-ing lunatics pack into the concrete jungle gym that houses the Oakland Athletics was pretty great. Not that I’m jumping off the Bay Bridge for the Giants’ dumb younger brother, but when it comes to the American League, I know where my loyalties lie.

You make your point in the most St. Louis-fan way possible. Respectful, courteous and totally oblivious to the complete mental destruction your team unleashed on the hundreds of thousands of DC “faithful” who had managed to toss aside their hand-me-down Red Sox and Philadelphia jerseys for a few months of “Natitude.” I feel your pain DC, just know that sometimes it takes 54 years of pure torture before dreams of World Series Championship glory can be fulfilled. Until then, enjoy RG3.

But I digress, here’s what else I love:

Buster Posey grand slams in deciding games. Hunter Pence going full-on Southern Baptist preacher to revive Los Gigantes’ battered morale. Ryan Vogelsong overcoming his doubters (including myself) to deliver the most decisive outing of any Giants starter this postseason. Marco F-cking Scutaro.

And do you know who I hate? Matt Holliday. That was a dirty slide.

Eat dust, Brickey. San Francisco’s gonna be poppin’ Pinot Grigio bottles after six games. And not because it’ll pair nicely with that cheese plate the waiter just brought over from the kitchen of the Carlos Santana-themed bar where I’m writing this (my living room is Carlos Santana-themed and I like to call my roommate “waiter” because that’s a power move.* Dude, just brought me a cheese plate.**).

*Not true.

**Also not true.

IB: You, sir, have the ill manners of a Dodgers fan.

First, I won’t apologize for shocking DC’s long-suffering (is eight seasons enough to be long-suffering?) Nats fans. It’s hard to say dreams were crushed when the Nationals themselves clearly weren’t too concerned with this year’s postseason. Trotting out Edwin Jackson instead of Stephen Strasburg isn’t exactly promising to your fan base. So spare me — this wasn’t Bucky Dent or Aaron Boone level disappointment for DC.

And second, let’s not act like the Giants are straight out of The Natural. The Cardinals have had plenty of moments this season: an old Carlos Beltran hitting like the old Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina becoming a true MVP-caliber player, David Freese still hitting like it’s Game 6, and Chris Carpenter pitching without a freaking rib.

St. Louis might not have the national prominence, or thriving arts scene, or wine country, or charming architecture, or strong economic development, or beautiful weather, or a movie centered on Robin Williams impersonating an Irish nanny, but we have heart. St. Louis is the David Eckstein of cities, and this team is the grittiest of the teams still in it. So you keep your pinot and cheese — I’ll take my Budweiser, some toasted ravs and the NL pennant.

SS: Well-mannered Dodger fans only exist inside Magic Johnson’s relentlessly optimistic bald head. Either that or they’re perpetually stuck on the 101. Or the 5. It would really depend on which hellhole of a town they’re driving from.

You’re right, the Cardinals have had a miraculous season. All the more so because of the level of competition they faced all summer — it’s difficult to put up strong numbers in a division that houses perennial contenders like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers and AA Houston Astros. The NL Central, there but for the Grace of God go I.

I’ll grant you the Cincinnati Reds. It’s an election year, and everyone knows people from Ohio go overboard in their twice-per-decade moment in the sun. That’s the only explanation for Aroldis Chapman’s 100 mph fastball, 1.51 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. He sure as hell didn’t defect from Cuba for this.

Even Joey Votto was looking for a way out. That 10-year deal he signed in April? Whatever. He knew the Dodgers were eyeing Adrian Gonzalez’s/Josh Beckett’s/Mr. Glass Crawford’s supposedly untradable contracts – that’s why he went 3-for-8 with a double at Dodger Stadium right before the All Star Break. Rumor has it, he winked in Magic’s direction as soon as he pulled into second.

Magic didn’t go for it though. Winking from second base is a little too “Steve Garvey at a Hooters” for his taste.

My real concern, as I write this 45 minutes before the start of game three, is what sort of evil magic the Cardinals have in store now that the Giants are on their turf. Will Carpenter be blessing the bats with his surgically removed rib — or will David Freese consume it in an act of ritualistic cannibalism? Will Lance Lynn be sacrificed at the feet of Stan Musial? Will Murphy Lee perform “The Star Spangled Banner?”

Only time will tell.

-The Game-

SS: (Fifth inning: Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have grounded into double plays)

I knew you all would pull something like this.

The City of St. Louis’ wicked triumvirate – I speak of course about Jon Hamm and the Sklar Brothers – must have gathered this morning to burn frankincense and myrrh at a mural/alter to the most high Bob Gibson (styled a la Thomas Hart Benton). Maybe they scattered the ashes of Enos Slaughter into their cauldrons, chanting atonally as the Priest Ozzie Guillen did back flips over the rookie cards of Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence:

Double Double

Toil and trouble

Double play situation 

let them fumble

Lohse is pitching like little boy lost up there. The Giants can’t seal the deal. Literal storm clouds on the horizon. This worries me.

BTW I have a real job and need to get back to work.

IB: (Seventh inning: we’re in a rain delay.)

This game reminds me of most Missouri elections: two good opponents, close score, but deep down you know it’s going to go to the team in red.

Lohse didn’t last long, and Cain’s been typical Cain. But the Cardinals have made use of their opportunities and jumped on Cain’s mistakes. 3-1 isn’t an impossible score by any means (I mean, St. Louis could stage a comeback if you spotted them a strike in the ninth), but we’re getting late in the game, and the Boggs-Motte combo has been dominant this season.

You might think of taking the Joads’s lead and heading back to California.

Final Score: Cardinals 3, Giants 1-

SS: First things first, I moved to a bar.

Second: Who the hell is Matt Carpenter? Because I think he might be the goddamn devil.

The Giants inability to create runs despite a lackluster effort from Lohse was absolutely maddening last night. The team’s offensive struggles are well known, but their whimpering bats were particularly inexcusable given Cain’s quality outing.

Timmy’s on the mound tonight, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. On one hand, he’s been lights out playing in relief throughout the playoffs. He was forced to take a big bite of humble pie pitching from the bullpen, but he’s responded well and Giants fans should be happy with what they’ve seen.

That being said. The Freak had a hellish year. Even if his second half showed some flashes of brilliance, his bizarre lapses into a funk have me worried every time he takes the mound. Those worries are compounded with the knowledge that you can’t go down 3 games to 1 against the Cardinals. It’s like starting a land war in Asia. Like Lance Armstrong, Just don’t do it.

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