So much for my pitch count theory. (Now you know why I write a blog for fun rather than a living, I suppose.)
I actually enjoyed last night's game, up until the point that Kent smoked that pitch. I didn't even let the ball land before clicking off my TV - it was a bit too painful. For a great review of the game, check out Brian's latest at Redbird Nation. Great stuff as usual.
Just a few thoughts from me.
Brandon Backe was awesome last night, plain and simple. To go through this lineup for 8 innings, just giving up 1 hit? Unreal. Yes, I realize that the Cardinals should have made him work more, but you've got to give the guy credit. He was on. Will he be any good next year? Who knows? He might be the next Jaret Wright, who had a great World Series in 1997, posting an ERA of 2.92. Since then, he has a career ERA of 5.09, and just posted his first season under 4.00 this year. But the future doesn't matter for Backe right now. He just pitched a total gem, at home, for his favorite team growing up. What a dream come true.
St. Louis Fans
While listening to sports radio this morning in St. Louis, I was pleasantly surprised by the people calling in. No bashing of Tony La Russa, or the gloom and doom that I was expecting. Instead, nothing but praise for Backe and Williams, credit to the Astros for getting it done, and cautious optimism about the Cardinals still having a shot, as small as it might be. There was more panic on the airwaves when the Astros won their series last week to make the NLCS than there was today, interestingly enough.
I can only assume this is due to a couple of factors. One, for the first time since 1987, the Cardinals are coming home to play Game 6 of the NLCS. The Cards had that 3 games to 1 lead over the Braves in 1996, but choked it in Atlanta. And in both 2000 and 2002, the Cards dropped both Games 1 and 2 at home before heading off to play on the road. In both of thoses seasons, the sliver of hope was to win 2 out of 3 on the road, thus giving the Cards an outside shot at home to win the series. This year, the Cards can take their shot at home.
Two - and maybe I'm wrong about this - but I think your average Cardinal fan doesn't have anything against the Astros. Their players, for the most part, are a bunch of hard working, gritty ballplayers who are genuinely likeable. I mean, seriously - how can Cardinal fans not like a team that hates the Cubs? These guys were buddies of Darryl Kile, and were just as upset by his passing as many of the Cardinal players. I think the potential of losing to the Astros doesn't sting quite as much as it could against many other teams. These two teams have been the class of the NL Central since it's inception. It's only right that one of them will be the first from this relatively new division to play in the World Series. (I just hope that it's the guys with Birds on their shirts, that's all.)
It looks like the Cardinals get to face Pete Munro in Game 6. Personally, I agree with Garner's decision, even though you know that if the Cards win this series, he's going to catch flak over it. But Clemens on full rest in Game 7, if needed, will be very tough, setting up a great final game that I'm hoping we all get to see. And as far as I'm concerned, if the Cardinals can't beat Pete Munro, at home, with elimination on the line? Well, they don't deserve to play for the World Championship anyway, plain and simple.
So, don't lose hope. I'm not going to turn into Yogi Berra and spew a bunch of wisdom your way. But I will say that if the Cards force a Game 7 in St. Louis? Well, anything can happen.