“Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Never in my life, did I expect a quote from my favorite book would intertwine with my favorite sport. And yet, here I am writing about it.
While it took three years for the St. Louis Cardinals to return to the postseason, it took them eight years to quite possibly repeat the past. Now, some may believe this is jumping to conclusions — and yes, there is a 50/50 chance that the season could end tomorrow, but what if it doesn’t? What if the birds can repeat the past?
This series so far hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been high leverage and high insanity from both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Atlanta Braves. From the teenage-like drama between Ronald Acuña Jr. and Carlos Martinez to the flat out disappearance of offense from some of the heaviest hitters on both teams. (Not suggesting that Josh Donaldson should bring any rain to Atlanta on Wednesday, though.) It’s been the type of NLDS that leaves spectators and writers talking/writing about it for years to come.
Let’s take a look at how the 2019 Redbirds might have a shot at repeating the past, shall we?
In 2011, the Cardinals had their backs against the wall going into game four. The Busch Stadium crowd of 47, 071 roared into the night, cheering on their favorite team despite the possibility of elimination. And in the fifth inning, the birds found help in none other than a squirrel. The squirrel would become known as The Rally Squirrel, the Cardinals and Phillies version of the Black Cat for the Cubs and Mets in 1969. (The Cardinals went on to win game four, game five, and the World Series that year.)
After losing in the most heart wrenching and gut punching way on Sunday night, the odds felt slim to nothing going into game four. Adam Wainwright had pitched his entire heart out, leaving everything on the field in a one-run game. Despite the anguish everyone felt, like Wainwright, the Cardinals and their faithful were ready to do or die when it came down to game four.
In the first inning, after back-to-back home runs from Paul Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna, it began to feel possible. But even then after the second home run hit by Ozuna, things didn’t feel so possible.
The defense, which kept the Cardinals alive in most games this season — fell short. And while I wanted to stand on my soapbox about the lineup being changed, I didn’t have it in me. (If you follow my Twitter, you know I have a lot of faith in Harrison Bader.)
Minor mistakes and a slip up pitch allowed the Braves to take the lead 4-3 and as I drove home from work, I had the same sickening feeling that I had the previous day while watching game three. But there was no way the season could this way, there was absolutely no way that it ended with the visiting team celebrating at Busch.
And it didn’t.
In the bottom of the eighth, Goldschmidt proved to everyone why the organization brought him to St. Louis with a leadoff double. And while Ozuna and Matt Carpenter would both strikeout on controversial calls, Yadier Molina came through in the moment everyone needed him the most.
The moment of glee lasted for a split second when the Cardinals returned to the field for the top of the ninth in a tied 4-4 game. In typical baseball fashion, Martinez had to face Acuña Jr., who tripled but never had an opportunity to touch home plate. The bottom of the ninth had an opportunistic chance with the help of Tommy Edman and a fly-out from Paul DeJong turned into an error that advanced Edman to second.
The ninth turned into extra innings with none other than the Lizard King, Miles Mikolas running out of the bullpen. A flawless inning sent the birds to the bottom of the 10th and despite the absence of The Rally Squirrel, the Cards had something, someone even better — Yadi Molina.
With Kolten Wong on third base and one out, one of the most iconic catchers in all of baseball stepped up to the plate. As Julio Teheran threw the pitch, Molina took chance and hit it to left field for a sacrifice fly, allowing Wong to tag up and cross home plate.
And as my favorite fictional character once said, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” If the Cardinals are able to take game five and proceed to the NLCS, it seems you really can repeat the past.
With game five on the line as a winner takes all, the birds hand the ball over to Jack Flaherty to go against the Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz. Game start time will be at 4:02 CST and aired on TBS, announced by Brian Anderson and Ron Darling.
Photo Credit: Getty Images