H.Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
I know it is October not because one day we are in shorts and t-shirts and the next we are in jeans and sweatshirts, not because the leafs have turned and are falling on the grass, not because my wife has put up the Halloween decorations, but because I now get to spend 3-3.5 hours five days a week sweating out the St. Louis Cardinals playoff games.
Now please understand this is not a complaint, but more of a story of what has been like as a Cardinal fan for the past three years. The craziness started in 2011 when the Redbirds found themselves 10.5 games out of the playoffs with only 31 games to play. They made some progress in the next ten games, but they were still 7.5 out with 20 to go. No one had ever made a come back in the history of baseball of this large of deficit with that few games remaining. This is when the crazy ride started. Not only did they make up the 7.5 games, they made up 8.5 and won the lone wild card spot outright in regulation.
That was amazing and fun, but reality struck quickly as they faced the NL best, 102 win, Philadelphia Phillies and got beat 11-6 in game one. Then Chris Carpenter gave up 4 early runs pitching on three days rest in game 2 and once again the Cardinals were in a desperate situation. Things were unraveling very quickly and reality was screaming at us that it was a cute run they made, but the season clearly appeared to be coming to a close. Against a very good pitcher, Cliff Lee, The Cardinals miraculously rallied for a 5-4 win and evened the series. The Phillies came back in game 3 in St. Louis 3-2 and the Cardinals were faced with back to back elimination games against the best team in MLB that year. The Phillies jumped out to a 2-0 lead in game four in the top of the first, but the never say die Cardinals fought back to win 5-3 forcing a game five win or go home in Philadelphia. The Cardinals scored one run in the top of the first and in dramatic fashion there would be no more scoring by either team as Chris Carpenter threw a 3 hit shut out and miracle number two had happened.
The Cardinals eliminated the Milwaukee Brewers in 6 games in what seemed undramatic fashion comparing to what the last month had been like for them. Then it was on to the World Series to face the Texas Rangers. The two clubs traded one run victories in the first two games and then alternated blowout wins in games three and four. The Rangers won game 5 and had the Cardinals in the same position of having to win back to back elimination games. In the first elimination game Texas had a 7-4 lead going to the bottom of the 8th and things looked bleak for the Redbirds once again. They scratched out a run in the 8th and then went to the 9th trailing by 2 and down to their last strike before David Freese hit a two run triple to extend the game. Then the Rangers score two runs in the top of the 10th and the Cardinals once again get to two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 10th before tying the game yet again. Finally the Cardinals win the game in the 11th on a home run. Then in game 7 the Cardinals give up two runs in the top of the first, but then shut down the Rangers the rest of the way to win comfortably 6-2.
Then in 2012 the Cardinals are in the first ever wildcard play in game against Atlanta which is win or go home. Once again the Cardinals fall behind 2-0 in the second inning, but come back for a 6-3 win. Then the Cardinals advance to the NLCS and build a 3-1 games lead. They then lost 3 games in a row to lose the series and failed to advance to the World Series with a chance to defend their championship.
So here we are in October again and the Cardinals are up to the same thing again. Once again the Cardinals were faced with having to win two games in a row to stay alive in the playoffs. They go up 2-0 on a Matt Holliday home run and Michael Wacha pitches a gem in a 2-1 Cardinal win to force the fifth and deciding game in St. Louis.
So once again Wednesday night Cardinal fans will be watching another pressure filled must win playoff game. Just another October night in Cardinal Nation.