MLB Season: The Test of Champions
By Mike King
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
It was just a month ago when the St. Louis Cardinals came out of the All-Star game winning five of the first six games and were riding high in first place with the best record in MLB. The Cardinals were embarking on a dramatic road trip that had them facing three of the top competitors in the National League. Then baseball happened. Yadier Molina‘s knees were hurting and he was about to go on the DL list. The left side of the infield was about to stop hitting. The record breaking hitting with runners in scoring position was about to dry up. The staff ace, Adam Wainwright was about to go four starts in a row without a win. Jake Westbrook who had pitched great all season long, was about to explode. Everything that was good and fun to watch was about to come to a dramatic stop.
The first stop in Atlanta ended with the Cardinals being swept. They then lost the first 4 games of a 5 game series in Pittsburgh relinquishing first place to the Pirates. The seven game losing streak turned into a three week nightmare where they went 4-13 with the final two losses being at home to the lowly arch rival Chicago Cubs.
It was very hard to watch these games for Cardinal fans. To those of us who love this sport, it is a six month roller coaster ride of emotions and you just have to remember in order ot have the thrill of going down, you have to slowly and patiently climb up the hill. However, when your on that climb up, it takes maturity and experience to step back to remember that it is a a very long season, 162 games and every team will have one of these slumps. It is the special teams who can remain calm and pull out of it.
What was the spark and changing point to this slide? The Redbirds managed to salvage the final game at home against the Cubs on a Sunday and then had Waino taking the mound on Monday against the Pirates. Unfortunately, he fell behind quickly 3-0 in the second inning. The Cardinal season was at a tipping point and the Cardinal ace dug in and shut down the Pirates the rest of the game giving the offense time to try to right the ship. Going to the bottom of the ninth the Cardinals still trailed 3-2. With one out already in the ninth, Daniel Descalso hit routine fly ball to left fielder, Starling Marte. He was there to make the play and just missed the ball and Descalso ended up at 2nd. A couple of batters later, the rbi machine that is Allen Craig, hit a line drive base hit that scored Descalso tying the game at 3. Later on in the 14th inning Adron Chamber had the game winning hit saving the Cardinals. There was a little bit of a heart beat.
After losing on Tuesday to the Pirates, the rubber game of the series the Cardinals gave up four runs in the top of the fifth inning and once again could have folded. But this is where the team really showed life as they came in and scored five of their own runs in the bottom of the inning. After blowing the lead in the 8th both teams battled to the 12th where Matt Holliday had his own walk off hit and the Redbirds had won 2 extra inning games in three days to the team they were chasing.
That was it! It was over! The three week funk and nightmare had finally ended. If one thing did not go right in those two extra inning games, the season might have been lost for the Cardinals. Now the Redbirds have gone 12-5 in their last 17 games to reclaim first place by a game. With 29 games remaining the team has some momentum and we are back to enjoying the thrill of the roller coaster ride.