St. Louis Cardinals: The 2016 Season In a Nutshell
The St. Louis Cardinals 2016 season was summarized perfectly in one of the strangest games of the year.
How many must-win games can there be in a 162 game season? The St. Louis Cardinals seem determined to push that question to its limit.
Just when it seems like this club has played its way in or out of this year’s playoffs, they find a way to steal a season saving win, or drop an important game in season damning fashion. In the final game of the series against Cincinnati, the Cardinals almost found a way to do both. Last night’s game seemed to encapsulate the season from the outset.
The Cardinals trailed the Giants for the final wild card spot by 1 game, and they were in the “favorable” stretch of the schedule. 4-games at home against the bottom dwellers of a division should be a cakewalk for a playoff team. Then again, I’m not really sure if these Cards are a playoff team—and frankly, they don’t seem too sure either.
On the season, the Cardinals held the best road record in the National League going 48-33 away from Busch Stadium. Now that’s the stuff of a playoff team. Their play at home, however, tells an entirely different story where their record of 34-43 was the third worst in the NL. It’s odd watching a team playing for their season, and wishing that they were playing the game on the road.
The silver lining should have been the opponent. The Reds have a winning percentage of just .421, and they have perhaps the worst bullpen the National League has ever seen. That’s the kind of match up that a playoff team should dominate. The Cardinals however, had only managed to split the season series 9 games a piece before Wednesday night’s game.
Can you imagine? The biggest game of the season, played in front of a home crowd, against the worst team in the division…and it’s an unfavorable match up. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2016 St. Louis Cardinals. This team is probably responsible for hundreds of broken television sets across the mid-west.
The Cardinals were able to score 4 runs against Cincinnati. That’s actually impressive, considering they went 0-10 with RISP in the game. Again, this is reflective of the season as a whole. The Cardinals have scored the third most runs in the NL, but their bats have gone ice cold with RISP in the second half.
The St. Louis Cardinals were the beneficiaries of another excellent performance from the rookie Alex Reyes, who allowed just one run through six, while striking out six Reds. He handed a lead to bullpen that has struggled and has allowed 4.44 runs per game. Surprisingly, the bullpen did it’s job this time around, but that didn’t stop the Cardinals from finding a way to blow the lead.
Matt Bowman pitched a scoreless seventh inning, and Matheny handed the ball to Zach Duke to start the eighth. The wheels almost came off. Duke allowed a run, and was responsible for two baserunners when he was pulled after recording only one out. Kevin Siegrist stopped the bleeding though, and recorded two quick outs.
Things were looking up as we headed into the ninth inning. I should have known better.
Seung Hwan Oh—AKA The Stone Buddah—has been one of the few bright spots in the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen, and he took the mound to start the ninth. Oh looked sharp, and grabbed two quick strikes against Ramon Cabrera. With an 0-2 count, Oh tried to jam him with a slider. The ball was struck well, but it looked to be a routine fly ball to Center Field. Enter Randal Grichuk.
Grichuk started in on the ball, before realizing what the rest of us already knew—it was going over his head. He retreated quickly after the ball, but he misjudged it, and missed as he stuck his glove out. Somewhere in St. Louis another TV was broken.
Oh recovered the way his nickname would imply, and struck out Jose Peraza for the first out. Hernan Iribarren grounded out, but Cabrera advanced to third.
Scott Schebler got the call to pinch hit with two outs and the game on the line. Oh threw him four straight fastballs and the result was a 1-2 count. Oh elected for his slider and fooled Schebler, who barely made contact and poked a soft dribbler…right into no-man’s land. Neither Molina, Oh, or Gyroko had a real play on the ball, and the Reds tied the game up. A deflating moment. A season ending one?
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Oh closed out the inning and once again Cardinals fans braced themselves for the potential end of the season. Hazlebaker pinch-hit for Oh, but he grounded out. Matt Carpenter utilized his uncanny patience to draw a walk, and in stepped Grichuk. Those who have watched all season knew that this could only end in two ways: A strikeout, or redemption in the form of a walk-off. He struck out. Another broken TV.
With one out left, the Cardinals needed a savior. Yadier Molina strode to the plate with the weight of a city on his back, and took the first pitch for a ball. He watched a slider fall out of the strike zone down and away and went ahead in the count 2-0. It looked like Molina was sitting on a fastball, and that’s exactly what Wood threw him. Molina ripped it to left and Carpenter got on his horse.
As Carpenter rounded second, the ball bounced up and high against the wall in left field. Carpenter rounded third and beat the relay throw to win the game. What a play. A season saving one. It looked for a moment that Bryan Price might challenge that the ball had actually bounced out of play for a ground-rule double, but he waited too long and the umpires left the field before an official challenge was made.
Next: Molina plays hero in roller coaster ride
In perhaps the strangest scene of the year, Cincinnati refused to leave the field while the Cardinals began to celebrate. Price actually ran down into the tunnels and chased after the crew chief, but it was too late. Despite the controversy, 0-10 with RISP, a devastating error, and an infield hit from hell, the Cardinals stole a win. 2016 lives on. That’s your season in a nutshell folks.