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Cards Stalking Braves For Wildcard Berth
Posted By Chaz Ingram On Sep 26 2011 @ 12:44 pm In St. Louis Cardinals | 2 Comments
Prior to this series with the Chicago Cubs the Cardinals were on the verge of a three game sweep of the New York Mets. Going into the game the Redbirds were 1 ½ games behind the idle Atlanta Braves in the NL wildcard race.
Staring only a one game deficit squarely in the face they led the New York Mets 6-2 going into the top of ninth in St. Louis. The bullpen experienced a complete meltdown surrendering six runs to the Mets in their final at bat resulting in a demoralizing 8-6 loss. The Cardinals squandered a perfect opportunity to gain a half game in the standings. Instead of a one game deficit the Cardinals were now 2 games back and facing an improbable uphill climb with only six games remaining. If St. Louis fails to make the post season this year they have a plethora of reasons to point to. However, I believe this loss will garner the most attention from Cardinals fans for a post season failure.
The Cardinals fate appeared to have been sealed last Friday when they followed up that Mets loss with a 5-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the first of a three game set. Atlanta, behind ace Tim Hudson beat the Washington Nationals 7-4 and the lead in the wildcard race ballooned to three games. With the victory the Braves not only increased their lead on the Cardinals but gained a great deal of confidence.
“Everybody’s spirit was a little better today, knowing we had some margin of error,” Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said.
But oh what a difference 48 hours make. In a wild finish on Saturday the Cardinals rallied to defeat the Cubs 2-1 with a walk off wild pitch in a desperately needed win. Cubs’ relief pitcher Carlos Marmol had blown 9 save opportunities on the season, but had been very reliable as of late. He had blown only 3 opportunities in the past two months and none since September 3rd.
Unfortunately for the Cubs (and the Braves) on this day Marmol would surrender blown save #10 on the season while giving up two runs to the Cardinals in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. The win allowed the Redbirds to move within two games of the Braves who lost to the Nationals 4-1. The wild pitch to Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal that scored rookie centerfielder Adron Chambers was preceded by three consecutive walks by Marmol who had saved the Cubs’ 5-1 victory the previous night. It was the Cardinals 8th win in their final at bat this season and third against the Cubs.
That set the stage for Sunday’s events that would end with the Cardinals within one game of the Braves in the wildcard race. Trailing 2-1 in the seventh Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina hit a solo HR to tie the score at 2-2. Rafael Furcal hit a dramatic tiebreaking solo HR off Cubs’ pitcher Randy Wells in the bottom of the eighth to stake the Cardinals to a 3-2 lead. That score would hold up as Cardinals relief man Jason Motte pitched a perfect ninth for his 10 save of the season. The Braves were shutout by the Nationals 3-0 on Sunday.
Since winning the NL East title and securing their spot in the playoffs Philadelphia has hit a dry spell and are desperate for some wins prior to entering the post season. They broke an 8 game losing streak by defeating the Mets 9-4 on Sunday. Despite their recent skid they’re still the best in the majors with 99 wins. This recent slump will hopefully serve as fuel for the Phillies and they are able to rediscover their winning ways in their three game regular season finale against Atlanta. Ironically the Cardinals will face the major league’s worst team the Houston Astros in the regular season series finale for both teams.
For those curious… in the event of a wildcard tie by St. Louis and Atlanta there would be a one game playoff. By virtue of their 5-1 season record against the Braves the Cardinals would get homefield advantage in the playoff game. We should see an exciting end to the regular season and hopefully a triumphant entry into the post season for the Redbirds.
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