The unlikely run of St. Louis to the National League pennant hit the finish line last night in Milwaukee as the Cardinals beat the Brewers 12-6, and the question remains “How?” Forget all the stuff about the 10.5 game deficit in August that St. Louis rallied from. Let’s trace it all the way back to March. The Cardinals are a team that lost its best pitcher, Adam Wainwright, to a season-ending elbow injury and the consensus among virtually everyone, the Notebook included, was that this was going to usher in a long year for Tony LaRussa’s team. They did it all year the same way they won the pennant last night—by bashing the ball all over the yard.
It was an epic home run display last night by both teams, with a home run in each half inning, and that was the norm for both teams all year. St. Louis also did it by some moves at the trade deadline—all of which were criticized in this space—that gave them some needed depth in the rotation and bullpen, along with some extra hitting. I didn’t think Rafael Furcal could still be a viable leadoff hitter. I felt Edwin Jackson was just a pedestrian pickup for the starting rotation, and while I had no particular beef with adding players like Marc Repczynski for the pen, I also didn’t feel it was a difference making move. Wrong on all counts. Furcal swung a good bat, including being part of the home run derby last night. Jackson, in spite of not pitching well last night, was a solid arm down the stretch and won a Game 4 against Philadelphia when his team faced elimination. Repcyznski was one piece in a long line of bullpen arms that Tony LaRussa can mix and match with better than anyone in baseball and something he did to excellent effect throughout the NLCS.
I think it’s important to note that St. Louis’ win was not just another part of a playoff “crapshoot” that Oakland GM Billy Beane of Moneyball fame, where anything can happen in a display of name out of a hat randomness. The Cardinals really needed only one unlikely occurrence in this run through the NL playoffs—they needed to rally from 4-0 down in Game 2 of the Division Series against Philadelphia against Cliff Lee. Once that happened, they were in an even series against the Phils and once the Phils were gone, the Cards have more veteran hitters in their lineup than either Milwaukee or Arizona, the other playoff team out of the NL. A stacked lineup of hitters with postseason experience and a manager who can squeeze every inch out of a pitching staff gives you a chance to win and St. Louis made the most of their chance.