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

The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #1: 11th World Championship

For their third consecutive post-season series, the St. Louis Cardinals were installed as the decided underdog, this time to the American League Champion Texas Rangers, back in the World Series for a second consecutive year.

The actual margin of difference between the two clubs proved to be razor-thin. When all seven games had been played, it was the Cardinals who finished on top, winning their 11th World Championship in team history and their second in six years.

There were many heroes.

In the sixth inning of Game 1, pinch-hitter Allen Craig broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out, run-scoring single that made Chris Carpenter a winner. Carp allowed two runs over six innings and Jason Motte picked up the save.

St. Louis yielded the home field advantage upon losing Game 2 when the Rangers scored two in the ninth to erase a 1-0 Cardinals lead. The runs were charged against Motte with the key play an Ian Kinsler stolen base. Jaime Garcia threw seven shutout innings in what became a no-decision.

Moving to Texas for Game 3, Kyle Lohse was pulled after three-plus innings, but Albert Pujols had a game for the ages in the 16-7 St. Louis win. The first baseman had five hits, including three home runs, hits in four consecutive innings, 14 total bases and six RBI, all of which set or tied World Series records.

Though he walked seven, starter Edwin Jackson held on for 6 1/3 innings in Game 4, allowing just one run. However, he departed with two on base. Both scored as Mike Napoli launched Mitchell Boggs’ first pitch deep into left field for a 4-0 lead that the Rangers held.

In the pivotal Game 5, the Cardinals stranded baserunner after baserunner, 12 in total, and ultimately fell by a 4-2 score when Marc Rzepczynski allowed a two-run double by Napoli in the eighth inning. Several key mix-ups on Craig-Pujols hit and runs and wrong pitchers warming up due to bizarre phone miscommunications between La Russa and the bullpen contributed to the painful and strange defeat.

It seemed the Series was on the verge of being lost and set up to be the subject of second-guessing forever, but once again, the 2011 Cardinals were not done.

Returning home for the must-win Game 6, the Cardinals showed amazing resiliency despite uneven play. The defense committed three early errors with the result being two unearned runs for Texas. Still, despite having just three hits through seven innings, the Cardinals had pulled even three times before giving up the lead run in the top of the next inning each time. Back-to-back home runs off Lance Lynn in the seventh moved Texas ahead once again.

With the Cards down to their final strike in the ninth, David Freese’s two-run triple sent the game into extra innings. The elation did not last long as Josh Hamilton’s two-run home run off Motte in the 10th powered the Rangers to a 9-7 lead.

When things looked bleakest, the Cards found a way once again, however. RBI from Ryan Theriot and Lance Berkman knotted the score, moving the game into the 11th. Berkman’s hit again occurred with two strikes and two out. It was the first time in World Series history that a team came back twice from a two-or-more run deficit in the ninth inning and later.

Freese’s home run to dead center in the bottom of the 11th ended one of the most exciting World Series games ever. The final score was 10-9.

One of the most pivotal aspects of the 2011 World Series did not occur on the field. A one-day rain delay prior to Game 6 proved a crucial break for the Cardinals as it enabled them to bring Carpenter back for Game 7 on three days rest.

The ace allowed two first-inning runs before tossing five scoreless frames. Freese tied the game in the bottom of the first before Craig’s third-inning solo home run gave the Cards the lead to stay. St. Louis won the World Series title by taking Game 7 by a 6-2 score.

Freese was named Series Most Valuable Player after batting .348 (8-for-23) with three doubles, a triple, home run, seven RBI and four runs scored. Yadier Molina set a Cardinals World Series record with nine RBI. Though he had only one hit outside of Game 3 and batted .240 in the Series, Pujols had six RBI and joined Craig with three home runs. Berkman batted .423 in the Series, drove in five and scored a team-high nine times.

Carpenter made three World Series starts, pitching 19 innings. He won two games, including Game 7, and logged a 2.84 ERA. Garcia did not pick up a win, but allowed just two runs in 10 innings for a 1.80 ERA. The Cardinals pitchers held the Rangers to a collective .243 batting average.

Taking everything into account, including the team being 10 ½ games out in late August, then marching through all three rounds of the playoffs, this most unexpected championship is the top Cardinals story of 2011, hands down.

Link to World Series boxscores

Link to The Cardinal Nation Blog’s top 20 stories of the year countdown

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42 Responses to “The Cardinal Nation Blog 2011 top story #1: 11th World Championship”

  1. Kansasbirdman says:

    Joe Torre leaving MLB to pursue Dodgers ownership. MLB had declined to allow MCCourt to use TV funds (an article Westie linked) forcing the banckruptcy to continue and forcing a sale. Conflict of interest?
    Wc’s conspiracy theory fodder…

  2. Kansasbirdman says:

    Greatest World Series ever. It had everything and more. It has been said that if a movie were made about it and you didn’t know it was a true story it would be thought of as pure hollywood fiction. What a ride. :-)

  3. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Jason Frazors option at 3.5 million was taken by the White Sox……….. before he was traded back to the Jays………………. without anyone even suspecting he was on the market……………… for minor league prospects…………..?????? Pretty good numbers there……………. it might be said…….that folks here are watching a video replay of a chess match…….whose results are know……….with all moves registered………… and can still see know intrigue………. Lance Lynn..rookie…gives up back to back Jacks…………and continues to pitch in game 6………. Jackson and Lohse burned to get a bunt down in the 10th????????? it wasn’t about baseball……….. One could almost speculate…..considering all the tension on the board……… that Tony believed that he could retain his job if certain conditions were attained…………… Like Jimi Hendrix…….wondering around the stage ripped on LSD…….. His hand wound strat pickups melting under the load……power tubes popping like Iowa corn…… the electro magnetic storm being noted by astronomers living in different galaxies…………. it wasn’t really about music/baseball………… it was just Tony doing it “My Way”………. Texas didn’t have a chance ………… they still don’t know what hit them…………………… but its all on film if you look……..

  4. blingboy says:

    The Oswalt rumors persist. Finally, the Cards comfort level with the five starters became un-ignorable. So now the rumor is we are looking at him as a reliever. A righty reliever. And, I guess, a sixth starter option besides KMac and Scrabble.

    He wants to pitch here. He could easily get a one year deal as a starter somewhere. We don’t need him, but it would be cool to have him. His veteran presence would be a plus. Clogging up the pipeline would not be good. We’d still be light from the left side. The payroll would go up from last year unless we unloaded elsewhere whatever we would pay him. (We will be right about $110M once KMac, Motte and the pre-arbs are signed up.)

    What does all that add up to? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    • crdswmn says:

      I can’t see him willing to pitch out of the bullpen. I wouldn’t if I were him. I would rather have him as a starter.

      From what I have heard, the Cards are at the limit payroll wise. Without shedding salary I don’t see how they get him. Besides, do we even have a roster spot for him?

      • blingboy says:

        The only thing that makes any sense at all would be as insurance in case somebody blows out their arm in ST, or at least starts the year on the DL. Not all that unlikely. But we’ve got Lynn and guys at or near the top in the minors we are going to have to decide what to do with.

        There is the question of whether Mo will want to pay KMac around $2.5M or so. Good question IMO.

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          I think he made that decision when he tendered him a contract. We Might be able to unload him for basically nothing in return but even that is not a sure thing.

          I think Mo believes in KMac as a reliever he had an ERA+ of 171 in 2010 out of the pen. His biggest asset is that even though he is RH he has shown some ability to get out LH hitters.

  5. JumboShrimp says:

    Oswalt or his agent have floated a claim of interest in the Cards before (2010). However, in mere reality, Mo traded for Westbrook and then re-signed him through 2012. Oswalt or his agent are not going to accept a relief pitcher contract, nor do the Cards have a shortage of right relievers. Its not going to happen.

  6. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    Against that backdrop, with one month left in the season, La Russa informed club owner Bill DeWitt Jr. and general manager John Mozeliak of his intention to retire. But he insisted on withholding an announcement for as long as the games mattered. ………………….(When things looked iffy, DeWitt and/or Mozeliak would show up in La Russa’s office to talk about going public with his plans.)

    “I said I was retiring from the dugout,” he said. “But I feel great. I like responsibility. I’ve got plenty of energy. I want to do something. Fifty years in baseball is 50 years. That’s what I know. So, you either do something with a team. Or MLB has talked about a role with it.

    ((((( It’s a little overwhelming at times trying to figure out how it’s all going to fall in place,” he said.)))

    Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/la-russa-gave-cards-unneeded-advice/article_1a0a14c4-64b6-57aa-8024-9dab3245f7a8.html#ixzz1iY8tcFKU

    Had Mo/BD had their way……………. what would likely have be their motivation…….. and possible consequences had Tony announced on September 1st?????????? Now that you have hindsight……

    Tony retired…….. what is “overwhelming” ……… whats to figure out??????????? and most importantly……..what is the “place” that something needs to falls into??????????? and finally this;
    “I said I was retiring from the dugout,” he said. “But I feel great………………..

    Cards are going to the White House………………. ain’t that swell……………

    • Brian Walton says:

      I can understand why TLR didn’t want a fuss made over him when the focus needed to be on the team winning games. I think it is great that the team execs respected his wishes. It worked out great for all involved and is over, so I see no reason to worry about it. Good luck to TLR in his next job, wherever it is.

      • blingboy says:

        The thing worthy of mulling over, perhaps for eternity, is the likelihood of coincidence that Tony notified the org of his retirement at approximatly the low water mark and the team abruptly did a 180 for no apparent reason, and shot straight up, making its historic run.

        The Rasmus trade guys had already been around for a month, Furcal longer than that.

        • Brian Walton says:

          The Rasmus trade actually preceded the Furcal trade, but that doesn’t really matter. With that many personnel changes, it can take awhile to mesh. I don’t want to take anything away from the comeback, but the margin between success and failure was incredibly thin. Without major help from the Braves, we’d be remembering this season much differently.

          • blingboy says:

            It is possible it took the new guys a month ‘to mesh’ and then the team went 23-9 as a result. But it’s no more than a possibility. The timing of the Tony decision and the turnaround is a fact.

          • Bw52 says:

            Brian-The fact remains that it did happen.No matter how it happens.The Braves are the ones remembering the season much differently along with the Brewers,Phillies and Rangers..Noi amount of talk can change that fact.In this case a the margin was big enough.

          • CariocaCardinal says:

            Yeah, we’d probably be hearing how Bud, BDW, and Art Romero all planned for us to tease the fan base by coming close to allow for a smooth Pujols exit.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        Come on Brian……………………. what fuss? ………….. Pujols was informed in Pittsburgh……. no shock there…….. but what about the market for Albert??????????? ……… that was desirable……..for BD………. how would Tony’s moves have been evaluated in September…….had he been a lame duck????????????? and very importantly……….if the Cats out of the bag……Dave doesn’t show up in Houston………. and in almost every imaginable scenario…..doesn’t return in 2012………and thats just the proverbial “scratching” of the surface …………. Would it have hindered the team…….???? Hell yes………….would many of Tony’s preposterous moves have created problems, had they seemed the act of a desperate………and dare I say……. a vindictive man………..instead of a “genius”……….. would Carpenter have taken that contract extension????????? etc, etc………..

        The real story of game 5 will eventually be told here ……….. along with the “Colby Story”………..

        Anyone here think Tony gets a job in “Baseball”………..

        • CariocaCardinal says:

          zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

        • Kansasbirdman says:

          Dave did come back this year and has said for awhile he wanted to come back no matter what happened with personnel. You gotta think Dave would have been one of the first to know, he has been with Tony longest.

        • friendmouse says:

          I’m anxious to hear the “Colby Story.”
          Which game 5 are you referencing? Fillies? Perhaps (and I have my suspicions) Howard’s ruptured achilles was not about baseball?

          I, for one, thinks Tony gets a job in “Baseball.” Sooner rather than later. Of course, it depends upon what your definition of “job” is.

          • crdswmn says:

            I think he means WS Game 5, the Great Bullpen Phone Mystery.

          • CariocaCardinal says:

            Give it time. There needs to be time for events to happen so that a story can be built around them after the fact. But don’t worry, no matter what happens a story can be fashioned around the events so some one can will be able to tell you they told you so (after the fact of course).

  7. blingboy says:

    Seattle signed that Japanese shortstop. So now they have two.

    • crdswmn says:

      Brendan is in the last year of his contract. He is 2nd yr arb eligible. It will be interesting to see what the Mariners do with him. They love his defense, and he did slightly better offensively in 2011. But he is entering his age 30 year, and without a marked improvement in offense, he may be sacrificed for a younger model.

      • friendmouse says:

        “Sacrificed?” Curious slant. Did we “sacrifice” B-Ry for an “older model” here? Depends upon your perspective, no doubt.

        • crdswmn says:

          No, we sacrificed Brendan Ryan for offense.

          • crdswmn says:

            To expand upon that, we sacrificed BR for a no glove, empty batting average. I believe the Mariners value BR’s defense more than the Cardinals did and so if they do not retain him, it will not be to obtain more offense at the expense of defense but to obtain equivalent or close to it defense in a younger, cheaper package.

            • LarryBird says:

              Furcal is way better at defense! Anyone can make the play but only a few can throw the guy out and Furcal has the arm only Ryan can dream about!

              • crdswmn says:

                Well, I was referring to Ryan Theriot, but whether Furcal is better than Ryan is a matter of opinion. In his younger days, maybe, but now I would dispute that assertion. It is irrelevant though because Ryan is not an option for the Cardinals anymore.

                • blingboy says:

                  Niether Furcal’s arm nor his judgement about making a throw is likely to get our first baseman’s wrist broken. With Brendan you never knew, and of course, we know that Kozma dropped off the radar completely.

                  • crdswmn says:

                    When did Brendan make a throw that injured our 1st baseman? He did have some poor judgment at times about when to make a throw, but I believe the distinction of injuring our 1st baseman belongs to Ryan Theriot.

                    • blingboy says:

                      Kozma won that prize, but I was pointing out the value of an experienced hand with a good arm and good judgement, like Furcal. Brendan’s throws could be unpredictable. Not to take anything away from his ability to dazzle, nor the possibility he will become more reliable. I was, and am, in Brendan’s corner.

                    • crdswmn says:

                      You are right, it was Kozma. I forgot that.

          • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

            Ryan came in with baggage ……….. more than just than his various dependencies ……….. in the end, he was just one of the last pawns sacrificed ……………. while Tony was pushing on any piece that might move ……. Billy was pounding in the stake …… tethering the goat …….. and trapping the king ……..

    • bigchieftootiemontana says:

      Seattle signed Kawasaki to a minor league deal with an invite to MLB camp. Unless Brendan Ryan gets injured the Japanese shortstop is looking at utility infielder at best, in my opinion.

      Seattle also signed right handed Iwakuma to bolster their rotation with a 10 year Japanese League veteran.

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