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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Holliday isn’t Denkinger or Buckner

There isn’t much to say about the Cardinals crushing loss to the Dodgers in the ninth inning of game two of the NLDS that will not be said with greater emotion elsewhere.

Some will want the head of closer Ryan Franklin, who only gave himself one chance to get the final out and continues a stretch of undependable play. Others will blast outfielder Colby Rasmus for making a rookie baserunning mistake that cost his club an additional run cushion.

Most will direct their venom toward outfielder Matt Holliday, who misplayed a line drive that should have been the 27th Dodgers out into the error that directly led to the defeat. Some are already calling for the Cardinals not to re-sign him due to the miscue.

Certainly the error was costly but not unprecedented.

Tom Orf confirms the other time in the history of the Cardinals franchise that the club lost a post-season game in the ninth inning with the lead was game six of the 1985 World Series. That is most commonly known as the Denkinger game.

In that case, the Cardinal Nation had someone else to blame as first base umpire Don Denkinger clearly blew the call on a play in the bottom of the ninth, calling the Royals’ Jorge Orta safe when it was clear he was out. It was a momentum-changing play in a potential clincher for the Cardinals as the Royals went on to win both that contest and then the deciding game seven.

For Cardinals faithful, there is no Denkinger this time other than one of their own – Holliday. Like it or not, if the Cardinals cannot come back to win the next three games against the Dodgers, the free agent-to-be may be labeled the 2009 Cardinals version of Bill Buckner, whose infamous error in the possible clinching game six of the 1986 World Series opened the door for the Mets to come back and defeat the Red Sox in seven games.

It will be most interesting to see how both Holliday and his teammates respond to the Thursday loss. In Buckner’s case, following his error, the 1986 Red Sox still had another opportunity – another game could still be played. Just as in the previous year in the Denkinger series, the controversial play did cost the chance to clinch, but did not lose game seven.

The 2009 Cardinals are in a position somewhat reminiscent, but again, Holliday’s error did not occur in a clinching situation for his club. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals can recover. It is up to them. Saturday is a new day with another chance to win along with the opportunity to do the same thing two times more.

Will the Cardinals answer the bell or fold like their predecessors in 1985 and the Sox in 1986? If they can’t come back, Holliday may become the convenient lightning rod, fair or not.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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