it takes nothing away from the cards' win last night to admit that it was slightly opportunistic. of their five runs, four scored with assistance from the gods of baseball (GOB) and/or the mortals on the visiting team:
- 1st run: miles is dead to rights on a botched hit-and-run, but pudge bounces the throw to 2d; the ball arrives in plenty of time but isn't caught cleanly, so miles is safe. he scores one batter later on an eckstein hit
- 3d run: eckstein reaches base when granderson slips on a routine fly to center; scores on rodney's throwing error
- 4th run: taguchi reaches base on rodney's throwing error
- 5th run: molina reaches base on a four-pitch walk; miles (after a force play) gets into scoring position on wild pitch and scores when monroe takes a bad route on eckstein's gapper
what i'm saying is that the competition is a lot closer than the 3 games to 1 score would suggest. the cardinals have outscored the tigers in earned runs in this series by a count of only 12 to 9; if the tigers ever manage an error-free game, they might stumble into a win. so i'm taking nothing for granted. if the series tightens up, i'm not going to be surprised.
but i will be less surprised if the cardinals close it out in game 5, whenever that's played. the cardinals look by far to be the more composed team out there, which seems like it's 3/4 of the battle in these postseason series -- and i'm not just talking about the errors. st louis holds a devastating 19 to 6 edge over the tigers in walks through the first 4 games, reflecting a) the cardinals' intelligence and patience at the plate, and b) the tigers' anxiety, both at the plate and on the mound. case study: top of the 3d inning last night. detroit already held a 1-0 lead, and they put two men on with one out. suppan had fallen behind the first three hitters in the inning 2-0, 3-0, and 3-0 -- so what does the 4th hitter, ordonez, do? swings at the 1st pitch --- a pitchers' pitch, curveball on the outside corner --- and lifts a weak fly to left field for the 2d out. that's simply not intelligent hitting. the tigers did end up scoring both runners on two-out hits, but with a less jumpy at-bat from ordonez -- the tigers' team leader in rbi -- they might have blown that game open early.
contrast that with the extremely poised at-bat eckstein took in the bottom of the 8th against zumaya. he took a couple of fastballs up and in, then looked at a strike on the outer half. the 2-1 pitch was very close, but juuust outside; eckstein laid off. ahead in the count 3-1, and having gone to school on the previous four pitches from zumaya, eckstein was positioned to look for a certain pitch / certain zone and time it; he threw the bat head out in front of a 100-mph heater and yanked it to left. ballgame.
it's that type of play that's made the difference this postseason. as we've referenced repeatedly, the cardinals came into this tournament with nothing to lose, and they haven't played a single scared inning all month. i don't expect that to change now; i think we'll be celebrating title no. 10 shortly.