What a Blast!
Not only the one Edmonds hit, but the game as a whole. While I was frustrated that the Cardinals couldn't score more runs in the first nine innings despite piling up 14 hits, it was still a great game with an ending that will rank among the all-time best in Cardinal history. After some quick looking through old box scores on Baseball-reference.com, that was in fact the first walk-off post-season home run for the Cardinals since Ozzie in the 1985 NLCS. It was also the first playoff extra inning win for the Cardinals since they beat the Yankees in Game 5 of the 1964 World Series.
And how evenly matched are these teams? Through 6 games, both teams have scored 29 runs and have a .249 batting average. Both teams currently feature three regulars with an OPS of 1000 or higher in the NLCS, with the Astros having a higher team OPS, 821 to 755.
I had no problem with La Russa bringing in Izzy to pitch the 8th. Berkman, Kent, and Lamb were coming up. If Izzy could get those 3 out, the 9th inning should - should - have been easy by comparison. And, as far as I'm concerned, the closer should always be used in what appears to be the game-deciding situation. Why, for example, use a lesser pitcher in the 8th to face the heart of the lineup, thus saving Izzy for the bottom of the order in the 9th? If anything, one could argue that someone fresh could have been brought in to pitch the 9th, but thankfully that didn't cost them the game.
Lidge is a stud. His command seemed shaky tonight, but he still retired 9 in a row. I keep expecting him to wear down, but so far it's not even close. And considering he only threw 32 pitches tonight, I'm sure he could go another inning or two tomorrow if it comes down to it.
All things considered, if both closers are unavailable tomorrow, it's an advantage for the Cardinals, not the Astros.
It's going to be hard to keep the MVP trophy out of the hands of Carlos Beltran, even if the Cards win the series. (Think Jeffrey Leonard in 1987). From a batting standpoint, he and Pujols are running a tight race.
Beltran - .476/.607/1.095, 1702 OPS, 4 HR, 10 R, 5 RBI
Pujols - .500/.571/1.042, 1613 OPS, 4 HR, 9 R, 8 RBI
Both have played great defense, but Beltran is doing so at a much more challenging position. Factor in the 3 stolen bases that Beltran has as well, and you have to give him the edge. Of course, there is one game left...
Keys To Success
In a post yesterday, I mentioned some things the Cardinals needed to do to win this series. Thankfully, three of them happened today.
1. Womack was getting on base
Hopefully, he can play tomorrow and keep it at the same level. To have him go 2 for 2 and score a run in just 2 innings was a great boost.
2. Bottom of the lineup contributing
Having Renteria and Sanders combine to go 6 for 9 with 2 doubles and 2 RBI was great. If they can keep hitting the ball well tomorrow, the Cardinals should put some runs on the board again, Clemens or not.
Even though Izzy gave up the tying run in the 9th, they got the job done as a whole. 7 innings, 1 earned run, 5 hits, and 1 walk. I'm sure that Izzy and Tavarez will be limited tomorrow, but that really doesn't matter. I'd rather have a short bullpen tomorrow than no game. Hopefully Haren, King, and Calero are all that will be required to get the W.
So, it's Game 7 in St. Louis for the first time since 1987, when the Cardinals came back from a 3-2 deficit against the San Francisco Giants to advance to the World Series. And if I might borrow a line from a hero of mine -
"Go Crazy Folks! Go Crazy!"