ST. LOUIS – The Tigers are a fantastic blend of power and pitching. And after their four-game wipeout of the Goliaths from Gotham, a few folks have already tweeted them the World Series trophy.
But as this gracious, great and slowed-paced baseball town might say: Not so fast.
The St. Louis Cardinals, October's team, steamrolled Tim Lincecum and the Giants 8-3 in Game 4 to go up three games to one in the National League Championship Series and move within a game of the World Series. If St. Louis can win one of the next three games, it will have another date with its favorite October combatant, yes, those Tigers. And don't assume the Cardinals can't win it.
The NLCS isn't quite over. But it sure feels like it is.
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Sure, this wasn't Lincecum at his best. This was Lincecum throwing 88-89 mph, and not locating particularly well, either. This was last-minute Lincecum, the playoff reliever who only was named to start Game 4 the day before. But even Lincecum at the top of his game might have trouble with this Cardinals squad, which is a lot better than most folks realize.
This feels like 2006 all over again. Six years ago, the Tigers were an overwhelming favorite to beat the Cardinals in the World Series, and a seemingly weaker St. Louis team wound up winning, four games to one. Back then, they said the Tigers blew it. They said they were too well-rested. They said the Tigers had lost their edge.
Funny how the Cardinals' opponent never seems to play well. Might have something to do with them.
Nobody deals with pressure like them. And nobody deals with loss like them, either.
Rafael Furcal and Lance Berkman are out for the year. No big deal.
Carlos Beltran missed all but one inning of the two games here. No worries.
Albert Pujols is gone. Tony La Russa has left town. Dave Duncan, too.
No matter who leaves, or who comes to play them, the Cardinals should never be counted out. Adam Wainwright was atrocious in Game 5 of the Division Series against the Nationals, surrendering six quick runs. When he left the game, he asked his teammates to pick him up.
He also vowed to be back. And boy was he ever.
Wainwright pitched seven innings of beautiful one-run ball, the only blemish a no-doubt, 451-foot home run by Hunter Pence, who selflessly said he was the goat Wednesday.
This Cardinals team rises when everyone thinks they're down. Count them out at your own peril.