Not quite forty months ago, after a David Freese home run, Chris Carpenter made a start, Jason Motte made a pitch and then Allen Craig caught a flyball for the final out of the World Series. Since that time, several core pieces remain, but the Cardinals have done an incredible job making over the roster in sustaining success. Although the team has not won a World Series in the three years since the magical run in 2011, they have at least made the NLCS every year with one World Series appearance mixed in. They again look to have a shot at success in 2015. This post takes a look at the players on the World Series roster in 2011.
In the first game of the series, Chris Carpenter (retired), pitched six strong innings, giving up just two runs on a home run to Mike Napoli. Lance Berkman (left as a free agent to Texas, retired) hit a key two-run single in the fourth inning to give the Cardinals the lead. After Napoli tied the game in the fifth, Carpenter pushed through for one more inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Allen Craig (traded to Boston) came on to pitch hit for Carpenter and broke the 2-2 tie with a single.
A parade of middle relievers got the Cardinals through the seventh and eighth innings for the Cardinals: Fernando Salas (traded to the Angels), Mark Rzepczynski (traded to the Indians), Octavio Dotel (left as a FA for Detroit, retired), and Arthur Rhodes (retired) all got outs and the Cardinals moved to Game 2 with a 1-0 series lead.
The Cardinals went with starter Jaime Garcia (still with the team, final year of contract, not expected to contribute) and he pitched brilliantly. Garcia went seven innings, struck out seven, walked only one, and gave up just three singles while holding the Rangers scoreless on just 87 pitches. Unfortunately, the lead was blown in the ninth when Jason Motte (left as free agent to the Cubs), who had gotten the save the game before, could not retire a batter. He gave up two runs and the Cardinals were tied in the series with the Rangers 1-1.
In the third game of the series, Kyle Lohse (left as free agent to the Brewers) got the call from the Cardinals. Lohse had excelled under the tutelage of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan (retired, assistant in Arizona), but lasted just three innings. Fortunately for the Cardinals, Albert Pujols (left as a free agent for the Angels) had one of the single greatest performances in World Series history, knocking three balls out of the park on the way to a 16-7 win. Matt Holliday (still with the team and producing), who had a fantastic .419 on-base percentage in the playoffs, scored three runs in the game, and 13 during the playoffs. Lance Lynn (still with the team, now a starter) pitched 2 1/3 key innings in the middle of the game to help the Cardinals take the series lead.
Edwin Jackson (signed as a free agent with the Nationals, signed as a free agent with the Cubs) pitched into the sixth inning of Game 4, but the offense got nothing going all game. The pivotal point in the game occurred when Mitchell Boggs (traded to the Rockies, signed as a free agent with the White Sox, signed as a free agent with the Giants, signed as a free agent with the Red Sox) gave up a 3-run home run to Mike Napoli in the bottom of the sixth, turning a 1-0 deficit to a 4-0 hole the Cardinals could not recover from. Ryan Theriot (signed as a free agent by the Giants, now retired, it is what it is) came on as a pinch hitter and struck out.
The Cardinals took the lead in Game 5 when Yadier Molina (still with the team, producing) drove a runner in on a single and Skip Schumaker (traded to the Dodgers, signed as a free agent with Cincinnati) knocked another run home with a groundout. Chris Carpenter left the game tied at two after seven. The Rangers broke the tie in the seventh inning, but that inning is more famous for a a phone debacle. Bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist (still with the team, now pitching coach) did not understand the instructions coming from the dugout and had Lance Lynn up to warm. Lynn, who needed the day off, pitched to just one batter, an intentional walk, so Jason Motte could enter the game. The series would head back to St. Louis with the Rangers a game away from the series.
Jaime Garcia could not match his prior start in this game. Nick Punto (left as free agent to Boston, traded to the Dodgers, signed as a free agent by Oakland, signed as a free agent by Arizona) received a surprising start. Including the announcement of Gerald Laird (left as a free agent to Detroit, left as a free agent to Atlanta, left as a free agent to Arizona) as a pinch hitter, twenty-two of the 25 players on the playoff roster would eventually make the box score (no Boggs, Carpenter, or Rhodes). As Tony La Russa (retired, Hall of Fame inductee, now in Arizona front office) would often do in the 2011 playoffs, he went to the bullpen early, pulling Garcia after three innings. Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas gave up more runs to the Rangers and St. Louis was down 7-5 headed to the ninth inning. Then David Freese (traded to the Angels) happened. The score was tied. Then they lost the lead in the tenth before tying the game back up on runs scored by Jon Jay (still with the team, producing) and Daniel Descalso (left as a free agent to Colorado). Jake Westbrook (retired) pitched a scoreless eleventh. Then David Freese happened again.
Chris Carpenter was back on the mound for St. Louis in the deciding game of the World Series. Carpenter pitched well and the game was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the third. Allen Craig, who had begun to blossom under the tutelage of hitting coach Mark McGwire (left for the same position with the Dodgers) gave the Cardinals a 3-2 lead with a home run. A bases loaded walk to Yadier Molina and a Rafael Furcal (left as a a free agent for Miami) hit by pitch added two more runs in the fifth. Another run in the seventh gave the Cardinals a 6-2 lead. That would be the final as the Cardinals finished one of the more improbable seasons topped by one of the greatest World Series games of all time.
Of the players in that World Series, just Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay, Jaime Garcia, and Lance Lynn remain. The coaching staff is largely different, but the Cardinals keep competing at a high level. Baseball America's top ten prospects for the Cardinals include current starters Carlos Martinez, Kolten Wong, Lance Lynn and Matt Adams. Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins, traded for Jason Heyward, were also on the list. So much has changed in just a few years, but the goal remains the same, and more importantly, it remains in reach.