Do you know where the Cardinals were exactly one month ago? Oh, just 6 1/2 games behind the shoo-in Braves in the Wild Card race. Yet in the space of one month, not only did they leapfrog the Braves to win the National League Wild Card, but they also earned a trip to the NLCS by knocking off the heavily-favored Phillies in the division series. Way to mess with the narrative, guys.
It’s often said that the playoffs are a crapshoot and anything can happen over the course of a five-game series. And that’s absolutely true. If the ball bounces your way in October, unexpected things can and usually do happen. Roy Halladay was brilliant in his own right on Friday night and if he got even a little bit of help from his offense, we may have been talking about Cliff Lee facing the Brewers in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday. However, Chris Carpenter was just a little bit better and fortunate enough to get the razor-thin margin of support he needed, including some fantastic plays by his defense.
This isn’t to slight the Cardinals at all. The Rays understandably got most of the national attention after topping the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card, but the Cardinals actually had the better record between the two teams in September. With an 18-8 record in in the final month of the season, the Cardinals entered the playoffs as arguably the hottest team in baseball. It’s very easy to dwell on the negative of the high-profile losing team, as we saw with the “collapses” of the Red Sox and Braves and are already witnessing with the losses of the heavily-favored Yankees and Phillies, but the Cardinals are no pushovers. Armed with the league’s best offense, they belong here.
There might be less eyes on the NLCS than there would have been if the Phillies were involved, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fantastic baseball between the Cardinals and Brewers. I don’t think I need to remind you that these teams don’t like each other very much. Those games had playoff-level intensity way back in early August, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us now that a trip to the World Series will be on the line.