espnW: St. Louis Cardinals
The 2013 World Series opens tonight at Boston’s Fenway Park and features two of the most successful franchises in Major League Baseball history. The Cardinals and Red Sox will meet for the fourth time in the World Series. Only three pairs of teams have faced each other more times in the Fall Classic (Dodgers-Yankees, Giants-Yankees, Cardinals-Yankees). Most recently, in 2004, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals to end the “Curse of the Bambino,” which had been haunting the Sox for 86 years. The Cardinals beat the Red Sox in seven games in 1967 and in seven games in 1946. In the past 10 years, the Cardinals have appeared in four World Series, the most of any team, and the Red Sox in three. Overall, this is the 19th World Series appearance for the Cardinals (they’ve won 11) and the 12th for the Red Sox (they’ve won seven).
The San Francisco Giants will live to see another day, carrying the zombie baseball torch into the World Series.
With a 9-0 drubbing of the Cardinals in Monday night’s anticlimactic NLCS Game 7, San Francisco won its sixth elimination game this postseason. In order to advance to the World Series against the Detroit Tigers, the Giants had to get past the Cardinals, a team that also had embraced the zombie baseball attitude, winning their two previous winner-take-all games in October.
But it all went terribly wrong for the defending World Series champions after they took a 3-1 NLCS lead. The team’s offense shut down in the last three games, where they were outscored 20-1. David Freese, 2011 postseason hero, lived up to his name by going 4-for-25 (with no RBIs) after hitting a home run in his first at-bat of the series. The Cardinals couldn’t capitalize when Giants starter Matt Cain got into early-inning trouble Monday night, leaving 12 men on base.
Ultimately the Giants’ pitching deserves credit. In Games 5, 6 and 7, starters Barry Zito (#RallyZito), Ryan Vogelsong (#RallyVogey) and Matt Cain (#RallyCain) allowed one run in 20⅓ innings. Giants pitchers drove in more runs (three) in the final three games of the NLCS than the Cardinals’ offense scored (one), including a big RBI single by Cain in Game 7.
San Francisco’s pitching benefited from a Giants offense that woke up when the team returned home for Game 6, scoring 15 runs in the final two games. Game 7 starter Kyle Lohse struggled mightily (5 ER in 2 IP) and even the Cardinals’ bullpen got knocked around (Brandon Belt hit a towering solo shot off closer Jason Motte to cap the night’s scoring). Every San Francisco starting position player had at least one hit in Monday night’s rout.
The Cardinals’ gloves betrayed them as well, with two more errors (six total errors led to 10 unearned runs allowed in the series, an NLCS record). Shortstop Pete Kozma had a particularly rough Game 7 with one actual error (and a series of mental ones) in the Cardinals’ meltdown. Kozma wasn’t charged with an error, but did get fooled by a line drive off the bat of Hunter Pence. The hit ended up going for a double to drive in three runs as the Giants took a 5-0 lead in the third. Perhaps it was the Curse of the Infield Fly that came back to haunt him this October.
On the other side, let’s talk about Marco Scutaro, the NLCS MVP. One of the things we love about baseball is that it often brings us unlikely heroes -- add Scutaro to that list. The 36-year old journeyman middle infielder came to the Giants in a midseason trade from the Rockies and helped the team into the playoffs and now the World Series. Scutaro went 14 for 28 in the series with four RBIs and six runs scored, tying an LCS record with his 14 hits. He’s only the third player to have multiple hits in six games of a postseason series.
Scutaro also recorded the final out of the game on a pop fly in the pouring rain off the bat of none other than Matt Holliday, who famously mowed him down with a questionable takeout slide in Game 2. If Hollywood had scripted this scenario, it would have seemed too contrived.
With the Giants’ win, 14 of the past 15 teams to force a Game 7 at home after trailing three games to two have now won Game 7. San Francisco became the seventh team in history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the LCS and the first since the 2007 Red Sox. The Giants also became the second team in history to win six elimination games in a single postseason, joining the 1985 Kansas City Royals, who won the World Series.
Monday night’s victory also marked the first Game 7 win in 130 seasons of Giants' franchise history. Along the way, Matt Cain became only the second pitcher in history with wins in two winner-take-all games in the same postseason. The other? The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, who did it last year when St. Louis repeatedly staved off elimination.
The Zombie Baseball tradition lives on with the Giants. How long will it continue?