Friday, October 28, 2011

Cardinals Seek to Crown their Improbable 2011 Season

The 2011 World Series has had more twists and turns than a Dean Koontz novel: three of the first six games have been decided by one run, including St. Louis' 11 inning, 10-9 Game Six win over Texas in which the Rangers twice were just one strike away from claiming their first World Series title. Now the Cardinals have a chance to win their second World Series in six years and the franchise's 11th overall (the Cardinals are already second on the all-time leaderboard, trailing only the Yankees' 27 titles).

The World Series has seen an abundance of heroes, goats and bizarre occurrences. In St. Louis' 16-7 Game Three win, Albert Pujols cracked three home runs to tie a single game World Series record set by Babe Ruth (twice) and Reggie Jackson--but Pujols did not get another hit until he delivered a clutch double in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game Six. Jayson Stark hailed St. Louis Manager Tony LaRussa as the second coming of Anatoly Karpov after LaRussa "checkmated" the Rangers in Game One but the "Can you hear me now?" bullpen fiasco in Game Five put at least a slight dent in LaRussa's genius reputation, with the St. Louis savant seeming less like an International Grandmaster and more like a patzer (or an "International Grandmother," the self-deprecating line that Ben Finegold once used to describe his less than inspired play in a chess game). In Game Six, various players exchanged the goat's horns as the teams combined for five errors. After David Freese--who eventually hit the game-winning home run--dropped a routine pop-up, Fox commentator Tim McCarver cracked that, unlike ground balls, fly balls do not take strange bounces.

In a few hours, we may be lauding Pujols for being the 21st Century Mr. October--or we may be looking at his Game Three outburst as nothing but an aberration in an otherwise subpar series. LaRussa may be certified as a baseball genius with three World Series titles on his resume--or he may be critiqued for being a highly decorated manager with just a 2-4 record on MLB's biggest stage. Freese may go down in history with Bucky Dent as a role player who hit a crucial postseason home run for the eventual World Champions--or Freese's Game Six blast may be just a memorable footnote a la Carlton Fisk's 1975 shot. This is not to say that any such snap judgments will be right or fair but that is the nature of the media beast and that nature has only been amplified with the proliferation of social media and the apparent insatiable need that many people have to render an instant, irrevocable historical verdict about whatever has just happened.

On the Texas side of the ledger, bazooka-armed catcher Mike Napoli is hitting .375 with 10 RBI, placing him in striking distance of Bobby Richardson's World Series record of 12 RBI set in 1960; Richardson's Yankees famously lost to Pittsburgh in Game Seven courtesy of Bill Mazeroski's home run but Richardson's big bat enabled him to become the only World Series MVP who played for the losing team. Nelson Cruz collected 13 RBI in the ALCS--surpassing Richardson (and John Valentin)--for the most RBIs in any postseason series and even though he has been relatively quiet versus St. Louis a big Game Seven performance could enable him to grab MVP honors. Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler are each hitting over .300 in the World Series heading into Game Seven.

The last road team to win game seven on the road in the World Series is the "We are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates in 1979; that stat--and the Cardinals' Rasputin-like ability to repeatedly escape death--suggests that the Cardinals will triumph tonight.

MLB betting is the place to look for odds on who will game seven.

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