Despite boiling blood pressure and a few years knocked off my life, the resilient Redbirds outlasted a San Francisco comeback Sunday night in Game 1 of the NLCS.
The Cardinals offense exploded out of the gate Sunday scoring six runs off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner. In the 2nd inning after a Yadier Molina single, David Freese belted a 2-run shot. Including last nights victory, Freese has played in 25 postseason games and hit .386 with six homers, 11 doubles and 25 RBI. He’s slugging a robust .739.
The offense struck again in the 4th, with the sensational Pete Kozma driving in Daniel Descalso. Three batters later, Carlos Beltran knocked a 400-foot shot into left field and took the life out of the sold out crowd at AT&T Park. Between Freese and Beltran, you’re watching two of the best all-time postseason performers in baseball history. Both HR’s came with two strikes.
Down 6-0 the Giants weren’t quite ready to roll over. I almost uttered, ‘so this is how it feels’ as they rallied in the 4th inning with four two-out hits, and pulled within two runs of the reigning World Champions.
The Giants’ middle of the order got the best of Lynn in round two. We saw this in Game 2 of the NLDS when Lynn relieved Jaime Garcia. Lynn allowed one hit the first time through the lineup, before Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche homered the second time around.
Immediately after Marco Scutaro singled to lead off the 4th inning, I thought Mike Matheny should have at least had the bullpen stirring. This is the postseason, and things change in a matter of seconds. Why not have Joe Kelly ready to go at the first sign of concern. The Giants were timing Lynn’s fastball, and Matheny just left him out there. No mound visit, nada.
Sunday was reminiscent of Game 1 last year in Milwaukee when the Brewers seized the game quickly and without warning. One minute, the Cardinals led 5-2. Then in the bottom of the fifth inning a leadoff single was followed by three Jaime Garcia pitches: back-to-back doubles and a Prince Fielder moonshot — and St. Louis trailed 6-5. Milwaukee won the game 9-6.
Thankfully, this time the bullpen rescued Lynn throwing 5.2 scoreless innings. Joe Kelly extinguished the fire in the 4th, Mark Rzepczynski finally retired a left handed hitter, and Trevor Rosenthal got the ball to the most reliable 7-8-9 guys in the game. Edward Mujica, Mitch Boggs, and Jason Motte shut down the Giants, allowing just 1 base runner over the last three innings.
Joe Kelly might deserve a chance to start Game 5 (if necessary). Kelly has proven his secondary pitches, and they’re effective. Lynn has a great fastball, but major league hitters can sit on them if you can’t establish off-speed pitches. Plus, Lynn can be very effective out of the bullpen as he proved last postseason. Remember, Lynn has thrown a career-high 183 innings in 2012, and has bounced from rotation to bullpen and back to starting.
Either way, what a big win Sunday night in the Bay Area. Put this game in the books. The Cardinals won the game, and escaped disaster. They have their bulldog going tonight with a chance to take control of this Championship Series. Chris Carpenter is 4-1 in his career against San Francisco, and 2-0 at AT&T Park. He aims for his 11th postseason victory.
Go get ’em Carp.