Now that the most incredible season in Cardinal history is over, I present the OFFICIAL Top Ten Cardinal Moments of 2011…..
10. Bases Loaded Nobody Out (May 21): In the Royals half of the Fourth Inning, Jake Westbrook found himself in an early pickle when he allowed Alex Gordon and Melky Cabrerra to reach base. He gambled in pitching around Eric Hosmer and the Royals had bases loaded and nobody out. Jeff “Frenchy” Francoeur came up and hit a comebacker to Jake who started a 1-2-3 Double Play. Billy Butler then grounds to Ryan Theriot at Short to end the threat. Inning over, opportunity wasted for the Royals.
9. Pujols Walk-Off I (June 4): Cardinal-Cub usually rpovide a lot of drama, especially when they are televised nationally and the FOX broadcasters act like sniveling Cub appologists. This game was no exception. Matt Holliday was on the Disabled List and the Cards needed Albert Pujols to step it up. He did just that when he came up in the bottom of the 12th Inning and belted a 2-1 Jeff Samardzija breaking into the visiting bullpen to give the Cards a Walk-Off 5-4 win over their I-55 rivals.
8. Pujols Walk-Off II (June 5): What could top the previous day’s game when it came to late-inning drama? Well…..it didn’t take long to find out the answer because Albert Pujols was up again in a clutch situation – this time, in the bottom of the 10th and guess what? He took Rodrigo Lopez deep with a 426-foot monster shot to left center and gave that Cards their second Walk-Off win against the Cubs in as many days. Big Al finshed that three-game series 6 for 11 with 7 RBI’s.
7. Craig’s Game Winning Hit (October 19): Allen Craig had an unfortunate encounter with the right field wall in Houston that caused him to fracture his knee cap and miss 54 games. In Game One of the World Series, Chris Carpenter pitched six strong innings and was then lifted for a pinch-hitter. Guess who? Allen Craig now found himself squarely on the national stage with an opportunity to be a hero. He didn’t disappoint as he delivered a pinch-hit base knock that scored David Freese (more on him later) and gave the Cardinals (and Chris Carpenter) a 3-2 victory in the Opening Game of the 2011 Fall Classic.
6. Carp Complete Game Shutout (September 28): Chris Carpenter was needed to step up due to the loss of Adam Wainwright to Tommy John Surgery in February. He started out 1-7 and his season appeared to headed down the sewer. Then, he got hot. Then, he got clutch. He reeled off 10 wins in 12 decisions and finished the season 11-9. he saved his best regular season performance for last. Against the Astros in Houston, he pitched a Complete Game Shutout with 2 hits and 11 K’s as the Cards white washed the Houstons 8-0. The real drama, howver, took place in the visiting clubhouse afterwords as the Cardinals (and their fans) did a little scoreboard watching that night and saw the Braves fall to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 Innings, which enabled the St. Louises to advance to the Postseason for the ninth time under the DeWitt regime.
5. Cards Win NLCS (October 16): This was not supposed to happen, but it did. The Brewers were not supposed to crumble in “The House of Horrors”, but they did. The Cardinals won their 18th NATIONAL LEAGUE Championship against a team that had outdistanced them by 6 games to win the NL Central title. The Cardinals, behind Home Runs by David Freese, Rafael Furcal, and Albert Pujols, outslugged the Brewers 12-6 to claim the Pennant. They overcame a rough outing by Edwin Jackson, who gave up 4 Earned Runs in 2 Innings of work. The Bullpen proved to be clutch (again) as Mark “Scrabble” Rzepczynski picked up the win. Freese was named the MVP in the NLCS as he posted a .545 Average with 3 homers.
4. Cards win NLDS (October 7): Winning a Division Series doesn’t guarantee a trip to the World Series, but the finale of this year’s NLDS DEFINITELY had the finale of this year’s NLCS beat for sheer drama. Nine days earlier, Chris Carpenter did what he had to do and got the Cards to the postseason. Their reward? Facing a team a team that was considered by many to be the best team in baseball. The Phillies were supposed to hand the Cardinals their heads, but they didn’t. Chris Carpenter turned in one of his most gutsy performances of 2011 with a Complete Game 1-0 Shutout that bested the Phillies…..and their ace…..Roy Halliday!
3. World Series Game Three (October 22): A lot of talk about Albert Pujols centered around the fact that he hadn’t had a World Series home run since Game One of the 2006 Fall Classic – six games and 19 At Bats ago. He didn’t do himself any favors in the first two At Bats of Game Three as he grounded out and Singled. In the Sixth, however, he silenced his critics as he belted a 1-1 Alexi Ogando offering to deep Left for his first homer of the game, scoring Theriot and Furcal ahead of him. Would he do it again? fans would have to wait long to find out. In the 7th Inning, he belted another homer – this one off of Mike Gonzales to score Allen Craig ahead of him. he wasn’t done yet. He came up for the final time in the 9th and didn’t disappoint as he took a 2-2 pitch from former Cardinal Darren Oliver to deep Left. He tied a World Series that had been set twice by Babe Ruth (1926 & 1928) and once by Reggie Jackson (1977) with his third homer of the game and the Cardinals won 16-7.
2. World Series Game Six (October 27). There have been many classic Game Sixes in World Series history – The “Gets by Buckner” Game in 1986, Kirby Puckett in 1991, and Joe Carter in 1993. What took place in St. Louis on the fifth anniversary of their World Championship in 2006 proved to be no exception. The Cardinals were down to their last strike in the bottom of the Ninth. David Freese took a 1-2 Neftali Feliz offering and Tripled to Right scoring Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman to give the Cardinals a 7-7 tie. In the Ranger 10th, Josh Hamilton hit his first homer of the Series, scoring Elvis Andrus ahead of him to give to the Texans a 9-7 lead. It looked like the Cardinals were done, right? Wrong! Daniel “D-Money” Descalso got things started in the bottom of the 10th with a base knock. Jon “The Chief Justice” Jay followed with a base knock of him. Kyle Lohse made a rare pinch-hitting appearence and moved both runners into scoring position with a groundball to Short. Ryan Theriot hit a weak grounder to Third, scoring Descalso cutting the Ranger lead to one 9-8. Albert was then intentionally walked. The Cards were now down to their final strike again when Lance Berkman delivered a clutch RBI Single, scoring Jay. The game was now tied, the stage was now set. This time, it didn’t take long at all. David Freese led off the bottom of the 11th. He belted a 3-2 Mark Lowe offering into deep Center to give the cardinals a 10-9 win in quite possibly the greatest baseball game ever played.
And…..finally…..at last…..The Number One Top Cardinal Moment of 2011…..
1. The Cardinals Win it All!! (October 28): It almost happened that Game Seven made Game Six seem anti-climactic. The cards spotted the Rangers an early 2-0 cushion. The Cardinals had their clutch 19th Century workhorse, Chris Carpenter on the mound. Would they be denied their place in baseball history? For a brief moment, it looked like the Cinderella speel had worn off. However, in true cardinal character, they came right back with a crooked number of their own in the bottom of the First. In the bottom of the Third, Allen Craig provided more heroics as he took a 3-2 Matt Harrison pitch over the Right Field wall to put the cardinals up 3-2. This time, the Cardinals went ahead for good. They tacked on two in the Fifth and another in the Sixth as Yadier Molina drove a base knock to Center, scoring Lance Berkman. Jason Motte came on in the Ninth and set down the Rangers in order to secure for the Cardinals their 11th World Series title.
There you have it. What do you think?