As a film-addict, I love it when the movie plays out differently than you would expect or an actor goes against the type audiences have cast him or her as. It’s a special sight to behold. When it comes to baseball and the movies, there isn’t much disconnect. The setting plays out in similar fashion. The drama rises as the scene unfolds. Two opposing forces clash on screen and only one side can emerge victorious. With The St. Louis Cardinals and Clayton Kershaw, an unstoppable force beat an immovable object for the third time in a row during the postseason. Tuesday night, the Dodgers went home sad losers of a series that was written on the page with a unique Hollywood ending. The Angels were tossed over the weekend. Both LA clubs have now retreated back to their home base, wondering what hit them and why the predetermined results didn’t unfold.
Once again, Game 4 was heading in a similar direction as Game 1. Kershaw was dealing. The Cards bats were freezing. There seemed to be nothing positive or enlightening about a future attack. The forecast called for more dark innings for the Redbirds and their fans. The sea of red shirts and white towels was fading and restless. For six innings, the Cards mustered one hit, one walk and a hit by pitch. Don Mattingley’s choice to put his ace out there looked like a stroke of obvious genius. And then….the seventh inning happened.
In the 7th inning alone in the series, the Cards were 15-26, scored 13 of their runs and had 6 extra base hits. A lot of that damage came off Kershaw in Game’s 1 and 4.
It doesn’t make a bit of sense. Kershaw shut the Cardinals down during the season in two straight starts. Stopping the Cards light hitting offense shouldn’t be too tall of a task in October,right? The change of temperatures and stakes seems to affect the Cy Young Award winner. Something happens. It could be the lineup swinging at him for a third time or the fact that good things happen when you put Kershaw in the stretch. Whatever it is, the trend continued on Tuesday. Kershaw took the mound with a 2-0 lead at the start of the bottom of the seventh.
The Cards called for a Carpenter to unlock Kershaw, but Matt struck out twice in three at bats. So they looked to another Matt, the Hulk of Stillwater, Mr. Holliday, to get it started. He stroked a leadoff single into center field off Dee Gordon’s glove. Jhonny Peralta had looked completely fooled in his previous at bat. He struck out on a hanging curve. This time, he punched a fastball up the middle, barely past the outstretched arm of Hanley Rameriz. Two on and nobody out. Would Mattingley go to his battle weary bullpen or stick with his silver bullet, which was showing rust on the mound.
Don couldn’t pry Kershaw from that mound unless he had a forklift. The ace was standing put.
Matt Adams stepped up, hungry and itching to contribute. All season long, the man had battled a number of foes. The league wide analysts who claimed he couldn’t play first base well because he didn’t have the body of Channing Tatum. The fans and local media in St. Louis who wondered if he was a true everyday player(me included), due to his streaky bat and inability to touch lefthanded hitters. The nagging elbow, which seemed to deflate some of his power at the plate. The shadow left at first base who went by the name of El Hombre. A lot of things had quietly ate at Adams.
With one swing on an 0-1 pitch, he shredded all of them. He sent a Kershaw curveball that hung over the inner half of the plate into the Cards bullpen. A lunar shot that jumped off the bat but required people in the stands to become the famous radio play by play analyst Mike Shannon by a brief moment, urging “Get up, get up, get up!”. The ball was either going to hit off the top of the wall, ala Freese in Game 6. It could have landed in Matt Kemp’s glove with Busch silencing to a dull roar. The ball decided to stay up and rocketed into the bullpen.
I had the good fortune of being at that game last night and it has never been louder than it was when Adams’ home run landed in the bullpen. The stadium seemed to shake. Strangers slammed palms together. The stressed faces turned to cheesy grins. A few cried. A few slumped. As Kershaw exited the mound, everybody in the stadium had a good feeling. The Redbird bulldozer had knocked down the final wall heading to the National League Championship Series. For the 4th straight year, the Cards would be playing for the pennant. Nothing could stop it.
Matt Kemp couldn’t stop it. He came to the plate in the 8th against Pat Neshek and didn’t hit a game changing home run. He struck out on three pitches.
Trevor Rosenthal couldn’t blow it. The roller coaster type arm of the young man didn’t make it easy, walking one and giving up a 2 out single to Gordon. Rosenthal had Carl Crawford at the plate with the tying run on second base in Yasiel Puig. The crowd around me screamed “RosenCOASTER has arrived. Step on up folks.” It was an honest statement and vividly true. Fans were on this ride and approaching a hill that was going to swoop down very quick. The pitch went to the plate. The ride flew down the track…..and it came back up. The grounder went to Kolten Wong who flipped to a covering Peralta. Game. Set. Match. The Dodgers were done.
Somewhere, ESPN and the M.L.B. Network reached for the ice cream while The Cards created a ball of fire in the middle of the field. The champagne was out, the smiles were infectious, and the good times were rolling.
The Cards had slayed the dragon one more time.
The thing I will take away from Tuesday’s big win. Matt Adams, throwing his arms up and jumping up and down like a kid who actually saw Santa under the tree, picking up Busch Stadium and throwing it on his wide shoulders. That moment will never be taken away from the young man or the people who were there or watching on television.
In movie theaters, people were looking at their phones. Accountants were watching on their computers. Parents were taking home sleeping children and trying to keep quiet. Doctors and nurses were hiding out in hospital cafeterias and doing a form of yoga to get cell reception on their aging cell phones(a shout out to my mom and her Nokia).
Some teams carry this kind of moment for decades while other teams pass them in the standings(hello pre-2014 Royals).
For the Cardinals, this big time playoff moment capturing thing is a yearly event.
Saturday night, the Cards host the San Francisco Giants. How was this possible? When asked about the prognosticators who picked the Dodgers to win, Yadi Molina’s answer to KMOX color analyst Mike Claiborne was simple. “They should know better.”
Right on, Yadi!