Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:38 am
ST. LOUIS -- The cute little girl leaned into the microphone and spoke.
"I love my dad," Ava Carpenter, 6, said.
Not long after, her pop, the Cardinals ace who earned the win in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series, chuckled.
"Yeah, but she's got a crush on David Freese," Chris Carpenter said.
On a noisy Friday night in St. Louis after the Cardinals won their 11th World Series title in franchise history, who didn't? Freese, the Series MVP who batted .348 with a homer and seven RBI, emerged into an overnight sensation.
But crushes come and go.
Everyone knows true love lasts forever.
While Freese is on the launching pad toward potential great things ahead, Ava Carpenter's dad already is there. The Cardinals now have played in three World Series during his time here, winning two. He's so thrilled to be here, he signed an extension in mid-September that will keep him in the St. Louis rotation through 2013.
And to that, add this: Carpenter is the first pitcher ever to win two elimination games in one postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Before winning Game 7 of the World Series on Friday, he beat Philadelphia's Roy Halladay 1-0 in Game 5 of the Division Series.
Carpenter says these Cardinals are the best group of guys with whom he's ever played. And Friday, he gave them something to remember him by.
Working on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, Carpenter immediately spotted the Rangers two runs in the first inning when Josh Hamilton and Michael Young boomed back-to-back doubles.
But after that ... he threw five shutout innings during which he surrendered only two hits against a potent Texas lineup.
Carpenter said he felt "pretty good" in the first inning. He liked the pitch to Hamilton that turned into a double, but he left a pitch up to Young that became the inning's other double.
"Coming back out for the second, I didn't know how long they were going to let me go," Carpenter said. "So I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time. If it was for two innings, one inning, three innings, four innings ... I had no idea. And nobody said anything to me about it.
"So I just continued to go out and try to make pitches, and as the game went on, I felt stronger. My stuff got better, my command got better and I was able to make some really good pitches when I had to."
Turned out, it was more than enough.
And after the debacle of Game 2 in Philadelphia during the Division Series when he allowed four runs and five hits in three innings while starting on short rest for the first time in his career, there probably won't be many more skeptics if and when he is asked to do it again.
"These guys, again, never gave up," Carpenter said, raving about his teammates, and who else does he think takes the lead in that department?
"This team is unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Most amazing team I've ever been a part of."
Posted on: October 28, 2011 11:22 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Forget "Go crazy, folks." This year, this autumn, this team, boil legendary broadcaster Jack Buck's famous phrase down even more than that. Strip it down to its base. To the one word.
The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions in a season in which things looked so bleak, they didn't even send advance men out to scout potential playoff opponents.
Champions in a season in which they were 10 1/2 games out of a playoff slot on Aug. 25.
Champions after general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa in late August all but apologized to the Knights of the Cauliflower Ear -- a local civic club that meets to promote area sports -- for a lousy season.
Champions after whipping the Rangers 6-2 an anticlimactic Game 7 following a sensational Game 6 to win the 11th World Series title in franchise history, but please don't tell anyone around here about anticlimactic.
Kids, all that stuff your parents tell you about hard work and never giving up. ...
Ask Chris Carpenter, who was sensational in the first World Series Game 7 since 2002, working on short rest and extra guts.
Ask Albert Pujols, he of the record 14 total bases in Game 3, and David Freese, who delivered a two-run triple and game-winning homer in Game 6 that will be discussed for generations around here.
Ask Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday and a bullpen that provided the blood and guts that powered the Cardinals through one must-win situation after another during the month of September.
On a chilly Friday evening that pulled the curtain on a sensational final month to close the 2011 season, Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs and six hits over six innings.
It was only the second time in his career that he worked on short rest. The first? Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia, when Carpenter was knocked around for five hits and four runs over just three innings.
La Russa said before Game 7 that he thought Carpenter learned something from his one other short rest outing. He wouldn't say what it was, but it was clear Carpenter did. Just one more example of the trust La Russa places in his elite players, and they in him.
That, along with the talent, has been an essential ingredient in the Cardinals' three World Series appearances since 2004, and two titles.
Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:25 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 3:26 am
MILWAUKEE -- The wordplay is irresistible: Mr. Freese. The Iceman. Freese It. Freese Frame.
All we need now is for Cardinals third baseman David Freese to grow into a star. And with his NL Championship Series MVP, he's taken a long leap in that direction over these past several days.
"There are a lot of guys who have talent," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said as the celebration hit full-blast in the winning clubhouse Sunday night. "To be successful in this league, you've got to be tough and you've got to have good character.
"He is very tough. He's had bad breaks with his ankle and his feet, but this guy is very tough. If he can stay healthy, he's going to be a star year-in and year-out. I'm talking about a clutch, clutch star."
That's what Freese looked like against the Brewers. He hit safely in all six games, collected multiple hits in four of them and, by the final out in Game 6, was hitting a sizzling .545 (12 for 22) with three doubles, three homers, nine RBI and six runs scored.
Though the Brewers battled and eventually cut St. Louis' lead to one run, Freese's three-run, first-inning homer against Shaun Marcum essentially put Milwaukee on life support.
For a guy who grew up not far from St. Louis, in Wildwood, Mo., it was a dream come true.
"I think not too many people get a chance to do this in their hometown," Freese said. "And it's an unbelievable feeling. To be a part of this team, this group of guys, this organization, it means a lot."
Freese, 27, batted .297 with 10 homers and 55 RBI in 97 games for the Cardinals this season. He missed 51 games after fracturing his left hand when he was hit by a pitch against Atlanta on May 1. It continued a string of bad luck for Freese, who had surgery on each ankle in 2010 -- part of the reason why he played in only 70 games in '10.
Acquired from the Padres for outfielder Jim Edmonds in December, 2007, the Cardinals have been waiting for him to blossom. And by the looks of it, he's doing so at an opportune time.
"He's an unbelievable player," reliever Octavio Dotel said. "Unbelievable. And he's going to be a real tough player for the next five, six, seven years. He's a guy you're going to see on ESPN, hear all over the radio, see on Fox Sports ... he's going to do some damage to the other teams, because he's a really, really great player."
Posted on: October 17, 2011 3:00 am
Edited on: October 17, 2011 10:22 am
They've been serious underdogs since, oh, at least August. So why should now be any different as the Cardinals get set to tee it up with the Texas Rangers in the World Series.
Except, one thing that might be worth remembering: Last time the Cardinals were here, in 2006, the Tigers were supposed to maul them. Next thing anyone knew, David Eckstein was hoisting the MVP trophy.
Is NLCS MVP David Freese the new Eckstein?
In their 18th World Series in club history, the Cardinals are about to tangle with a Texas team that has not lost consecutive games in nearly two months. The Rangers have played 40 games since their last back-to-back losses, when they dropped three in a row at home against the Red Sox from Aug. 23-25.
Of course, they're also about to tussle with a Texas team that ripped through Detroit in the AL Championship Series without obtaining a win from a starting pitcher. Sound familiar? Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter earned the Game 3 win despite only going five innings, and the St. Louis bullpen earned the other three wins.
The Airborne Rangers surely will be favored in the World Series, given that behemoth AL lineup and a bullpen in which Alexi Ogando qualifies as a lethal weapon.
"It's going to be very interesting," Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal said moments after his team eliminated Milwaukee in the NLCS. "We've got to keep playing the way we do. We've got to keep playing good defense and getting a hit when we need it."
"The Rangers are scary," third baseman David Freese said. "They're a scary team. They've been doing it all along the last few years. You look at that lineup, you look at that staff, that's going to be a battle. And I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. They're confident. We're confident."
As the champagne sprayed, Manager Tony La Russa said he had not had time to give much thought to Texas, other than him and pitching coach Dave Duncan quietly sneaking a conversation Saturday night about which way to set up the Cardinals' rotation. La Russa said they had one plan for if the Cardinals won in Game 6 on Sunday -- the plan that presumably will be put into motion -- and another plan for if the Brewers extended them to Game 7 on Monday.
Being that ace Chris Carpenter was set to start Game 7 ... surely, he'll now get the ball for Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday night in St. Louis.
"Texas has an unbelievable team," reliever Octavio Dotel said. "They have great players. They have great hitters, great pitchers, a great bullpen.
"What is going to happen, I don't know. We've got to go game by game, one by one, and see what happens. Not try to win it all in one game."
Dotel talked about Texas' "great right-handed hitters", mentioning Adrian Beltre, Nelson Cruz and Michael Young.
The Cardinals will go from the very familiar against the Brewers (both in the NL Central, they faced each other 18 times this season) to the totally unknown against the Rangers (they did not face each other in interleague play this year).
"Throw strikes," reliever Jason Motte said. "You've gotta get ahead of guys. Mix and match. I've seen those guys play. If you go 2 and 1 or 3 and 1 [in the count], it's going to be a long series."
The one man who might know the most about both of these teams is Cardinals reliever Arthur Rhodes. Practically a senior citizen now in baseball years (he's 41), Rhodes started the season with the Rangers, where he went 3-3 with a 4.81 ERA in 32 games, before Texas released him on Aug. 8. St. Louis signed him three days later.
Used strictly as a left-handed specialist, Rhodes was 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA for the Cards, working only 8 2/3 innings in 19 games.
"Those are my friends," Rhodes said of the Rangers. "But I've still got my team right here. I love St. Louis. These are my boys.
"We'll do our thing. We match up good with them. We have a similar lineup, but I know our bullpen is better than theirs."
Said Freese: "I definitely have been watching the ALCS, for sure. And that's been some good ball over there. That's a dynamite team, and we definitely have to be ready for them."
Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:51 pm
MILWAUKEE -- If the St. Louis Cardinals' starters pitch this lousy in the World Series ... why, they just might stand a puncher's chance against the Texas Rangers.
Go figure. Tony La Russa burned through 28 pitching changes over six games, using 34 total pitchers ... and his was the team that won. St. Louis burned through the Brewers one more time, 12-6, to seize this NL Championship Series.
And this whole "Happy Flight" thing has gotten quite out of control as the Cardinals streaked to their 22nd win in their past 31 games: They've now won 17 consecutive games leading into a flight this season. And their post-Game 6 flight was the happiest of all: It took them home, and straight into the World Series.
Who would have figured this? The Cardinals were 10 1/2 games out of the wild-card slot in late August, and 8 1/2 out on Sept. 6. Then the Braves started losing, the Cardinals started winning and who knows when it will end?
Ace Chris Carpenter seemed gassed after his beautiful Game 5 classic over Roy Halladay in Philadelphia, but it didn't matter. Edwin Jackson? Lasted two innings in Game 6, but it didn't matter. Jaime Garcia? Kyle Lohse? Neither was sharp but ... you got it. Just didn't matter.
The Cardinals clearly were the better team, and right now it's looking like their TKO of the Phillies was no fluke. The Cardinals led the NL in on-base percentage this season for the first time since 2003, and they're only getting better.
And this was more than Albert Pujols, who flexed for five RBIs in Game 2. This was David Freese's coming out party. With Matt Holliday nursing a sore hand, Freese was unstoppable. In running his postseason hitting streak to nine games, he batted .459 (17 for 37) with five doubles, four homers and 14 RBI. In the six-game NLCS, Freese rolled out the barrel on the Brewers to the tune of a.545 (12 for 22) average with three homers and nine RBIs.
But despite all this, the real stars were those odd-named (Mark Rzepcynski), bespectacled and bearded (Jason Motte), Ryan Braun-killing (Octavio Dotel, who whiffed the Brewers outfielder again Sunday and now has struck him out in nine of 11 career at-bats) and old men (Arthur Rhodes) in the bullpen.
The six consecutive games in which a starting pitcher failed to work into the sixth inning is the longest such postseason streak in St. Louis history.
Normally, that's a recipe for disaster. But with La Russa mixing matchups more expertly than a master bartender mixes drinks, it suddenly wasn't. Time after time, La Russa was able to get Dotel to trump Braun, or the lefty Rzepcynski to face the left-handed Fielder.
Against a Texas lineup that is deeper than most in the National League, La Russa and the bullpen will have their work cut out for them. But if you're going to bet against this club after the month they've put together, well, that's on you.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:02 am
PHILADELPHIA -- This is a trick, isn't it? The way the St. Louis Cardinals are setting this up, it looks suspiciously as if it might be a referendum on how smart the rest of us are.
We wrote them off once, back in early September when they were 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot.
You and the Atlanta Braves know what happened after that.
Now, after they blew an early lead in Game 1 of this Division Series and then fell behind by four runs against Cliff Lee in the second inning of Game 2, yes, just when it looked as if it was safe to write them off again ... BAM!
The Cardinals undressed Lee, a tag-team of six relievers redeemed Chris Carpenter's awful start and Tony LaRussa's gang swiped one from the Phillies, 5-4.
This was a game made for LaRussa. He used four different pitchers in the eighth inning alone. And it worked.
The Cardinals have to feel great about this one, and not just because of the win. But because of how they earned that win.
Rafael Furcal chopped a leadoff triple in the first ... but his teammates failed to score him.
David Freese drilled a leadoff double in the second ... and never moved as St. Louis blew another early opportunity against Lee.
St. Louis was 0 for 6 alone in the first two innings with runners in scoring position. And Carpenter was so off that LaRussa ripped plate umpire Jerry Meals during his mid-game television interview for having two different strike zones for Carpenter and Lee. Blatently untrue.
But somehow, Phillies mustered just two baserunners against the not-so-vaunted Cardinals' bullpen over the last five innings. The Cardinals drove Lee from the game in the seventh.
And they drove this series back to St. Louis even.
Posted on: June 10, 2010 3:57 pm
The Mets were busy finishing up with San Diego for 2010 during Thursday's day-night doubleheader, which means as Jose Reyes takes his speed game toward the next destination, the cat-and-mouse between him and Padres catcher Nick Hundley will go on hiatus until 2011.
The games-within-the-games are always fascinating, and I bring up Hundley here for one simple reason:
For his career, Reyes was a perfect 22 for 22 in stolen bases until Hundley threw him out at second base in the fifth inning of a game in San Diego on June 1.
"Oh, I didn't know that!" the charismatic Reyes said enthusiastically when I informed him that he had been perfect against the Padres to that point.
Then, he grinned and added: "I think I was safe. I don't even know that he tagged me in time."
What makes Reyes especially dangerous on the bases, Hundley said, is that he's so sneaky.
"He's really quiet," Hundley says. "To me, it looks like he's the same on every pitch.
"That trait is good to have if you're a base stealer. When you're cat-like, you don't give anything away."
Most base-stealers, Hundley said, give something away with their body language. A lean-toward-second here. A hand-movement there.
"There are some great base-stealers," Hundley said. "[Houston's] Michael Bourn, Reyes. But Reyes, for me, is a little different. He takes a walking lead. There's a little more rhythm. Bourn flat-out burns. Reyes is casual. He'll lull you to sleep."
Reyes said it's something he's worked on for years, and when the Mets brought Rickey Henderson in as a coach a few years ago, that learning process accelerated.
"I try to pick my spots, and I don't want to be too anxious," Reyes said. "If I'm anxious, they'll say, 'He's going to go at one point.' I try to be quiet. I learned that.
"When I was younger, I used to be crazy, like I wanted to go on every pitch."
Reyes led the NL in steals from 2005-2007, but since serious hamstring troubles have plagued him over the past couple of seasons, being quiet and cat-like on the bases is more important than ever to his success rate. And, by definition, to that of the Mets: They're 19-6 when he scores this season, and 267-110 (.708) in games since 2005 when he scores.
"He's smooth, he doesn't force it and he runs in good spots," Hundley said.
And he gives no clues that he may just take off for second or third in the next second.
"If you find a tip," Hundley said, "let me know."
Likes: OK, you healthy people in the crowd, here's PETA's ranking this year of baseball's most vegetarian-friendly ballparks (and it's entertaining that the city best known for Philly cheesesteaks ranks first): 1. Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia. 2. AT&T Park, San Francisco. 3. Minute Maid Park, Houston. 4. Comerica Park, Detroit. 5. Coors Field, Colorado. ... TBS switching from Phillies-Boston to Nationals-Indians for their Sunday afternoon game of the weeke this weekend. They must really think a lot of rookie Nats reliever Drew Storen. Ah, wait, that's Stephen Strasburg's day to pitch. ... Cardinals rookie third baseman David Freese is a friendly and earnest kid -- and plenty talented. ... Last day of school. ... First day of summer vacation. ... A former Miss America playing Mrs. George Custer for Monroe's celebration of the 100th anniversary of it's lovely Gen. George Armstrong Custer statue.
Dislikes: Just how wacked out are Frank and Jamie McCourt? Answer: Very, very, extremely wacked out.
"Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Posted on: May 26, 2010 1:26 am
If you're wondering whether there might be a correlation between St. Louis ranking 11th in the NL in runs scored and controversial new batting coach Mark McGwire ... don't even go there around the Cardinals.
At least, not when Big Mac is just seven regular-season weeks into the job.
"I've been really impressed by him," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa says. "He's got a relationship with everybody. He's done a good job of making things clear that he's here for them.
"He's everything that we thought he'd be, except I think he's got an even better feel for coaching as far as communicating. He's got a good message, he cares a lot."
Aside from Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina, the Cardinals are fielding a fairly young lineup in rookie third baseman David Freese, center fielder Colby Rasmus, second baseman Skip Schumaker and even right fielder Ryan Ludwick.
So there is a learning curve that at times has gone along with the early struggles of Holliday and, in the month of May, Pujols.
Case in point: First inning of St. Louis' 1-0 loss in San Diego on Tuesday night, with one out and the bases loaded, Rasmus whiffed.
"He's got to put that ball in play there," La Russa said afterward. "He'll learn."
Among what Rasmus is learning, from McGwire and through experience: Two-strike technique. How to cut down on his swing and better defend the plate, which will leave him -- and, by extension, the Cardinals -- less vulnerable.
Led by La Russa and McGwire, the Cardinals continue to work through it. Heading into this trip, they ranked ninth in the NL in on-base percentage and 10th in slugging percentage.
"He's a great person," says Holliday, who has worked with McGwire in past winters in Orange County, Calif. "He's real easy to work with, real positive. I think he's doing a real good job.
"He's a real cool guy. Somebody you enjoy being around, and somebody you enjoy talking hitting with."
Likes: Fabulous pitching duel between St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and San Diego's Jon Garland in the Padres' 1-0 win Tuesday night at -- where else? -- Petco Park. Wainwright equaled a career-high 12 strikeouts and had his killer curveball going wherever he wanted it to. Garland now is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA over his past eight starts and is 3-0 with an 0.84 ERA in five Petco Park starts in 2010. ... The squirrel that ran onto Target Field on Tuesday night in the rain at the Yankees-Twins game and frantically looked for cover running the warning track while the crowd chanted, "Let's go squirrel! Let's go squirrel!" ... St. Louis rookie third baseman David Freese. Good-looking player. ... Who said Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz was done? Sure am glad I never ventured anywhere near THAT prediction. ... Toronto manager Cito Gaston. ... ... Really enjoying Hampton Sides' gripping book Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin. If you like history or have any interest in the subject matter, I highly recommend it. ... Bob Dylan's 69th birthday this week.
Dislikes: Somebody stole the Drive-By Truckers' backdrop for their shows earlier this month from the House of Blues in San Diego. You've got to be kidding me. That's so weak.
Rock 'N' Roll Lyric of the Day:
"I was so much older then
-- Bob Dylan, My Back Pages