The St. Louis Cardinals have played eleven playoff series in the last five seasons. Using a very loose definition of the term, one could argue they have played in twelve series, if one includes their one-game playoff against the Atlanta Braves in 2012. I don't count that as a series because of the definition of the word "series", but I'll let it slide if you do.
Perhaps no Cardinals series in this time is as underrated as the 2011 NLCS, contested between the Cardinals and their opponent this weekend, the Milwaukee Brewers. It's not hard to see why it is overlooked: it was by far the least dramatic 2011 series. The NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies and the World Series against the Texas Rangers produced a maximum number of games and an inner-circle classic playoff game each (Game 5 of the NLDS; Game 6 of the World Series).
But the 2011 NLCS had its own charms. It was the rare (unprecedented) rematch of a World Series in a pre-World Series round, it squared a hot Cardinals team against the best team Milwaukee had seen since the Braves were in town, and any divisional matchup, even if not between two historic "rivals", creates inherent intrigue (and angst in future seasons).
Game 1, much like Game 1 against the Phillies, was a rough experience for Cardinals fans. It immediately felt as though the Cardinals were playing on borrowed time, as the Brewers scored six runs in the 5th inning to produce a 8-5 lead. Eventually the Cardinals got to 6 and the Brewers got to 9 but the result held, unfortunately.
And then the next day, the Cardinals won 12-3. The Cardinals used seven pitchers and for a second straight game, David Freese hit a home run (fun fact: Freese hit a home run for the Pirates against the Chicago Cubs as I typed this sentence). Sports momentum is a narrative-fueled myth.
In St. Louis for Game 3, the Cardinals won 4-3 in a quietly dramatic game: the Cardinals scored all four of their runs in the first inning, and the Brewers concluded their scoring in the third. The drama came from persistent existential angst, knowing that one swing could change the entire complexion of the game. However, the bullpen did its job beautifully: Fernando Salas, Lance Lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, and Jason Motte pitched a perfect four innings of relief.
The Brewers won Game 4 by a score of 4-2. I don't remember this game very well, but the Cardinals had a 2-0 lead courtesy of solo homers by Matt Holliday and Allen Craig and then they didn't. So perhaps forgetting was a good idea.
Game 5 seemed like a tall order, as the Cardinals deployed good pitcher Jaime Garcia while the Brewers deployed better pitcher Zack Greinke. Which is no shade on Garcia, of whom I am an unabashed fan, but there's a reason (besides a lack of foresight) the Brewers traded Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi for him. And yet, the Cardinals still managed to procure cheap drinks at Mobil on the Run the next day with a 7-1 victory. All of a sudden, the World Series dream began to look very realistic.
And that Sunday, in Game 6, the coronation happened. And while a tense victory in a deciding game is ultimately more rewarding, a blowout is more fun. And a 12-6 victory in which Shawn Marcum and Chris Narveson were rocked early and even Rafael Furcal hit a home run was just that.
The 2011 NLCS was the equivalent of the scene in The Godfather where Michael visits Vito in the hospital and protects him from Sollozzo's henchmen (do I have to issue spoiler warnings for 44 year old movies?): it may not be the definitive moment, and there may be a lot of other moments which take more precedence in recollections, but it was still a really good thing that offered its share of drama.
So far, the 2016 season is a bit more The Godfather Part III (which is better than you remember it being, but still), but it is a story still in progress. Here is what happened yesterday in the continuation of that story on VEB.
Trade deadline targets
As somebody not particularly hopeful about the Cardinals' chances to win the NL Central this season, I advocated for the acquisition of the aforementioned Fernando Salas from the Angels. It's not exciting but it would be inexpensive. It would also be a nice reward for those of you who held onto your Fernando Salas shirseys (I'm sure somebody owned one).
Lil Scooter anthologized Cardinals All-Star shortstop Aledmys Diaz and some of the insight we've accumulated about his currently terrific bat. As she mentions, the glove could use some work, but he is hitting wonderfully, and as a fan it's nice to see him in the All-Star Game (ignoring the event that caused him to make the team).
Ebo handled the prospect report. Prospects did things and stuff, so read about them here.
For some reason, Craig Edwards previewed the then-upcoming, now in progress series against the Brewers, whom the Cardinals should destroy rather than remembering a series that happened five years ago like some of us did, but this was quite useful. As for Friday night's game, it turns out Craig was a liar and the Cardinals lost. Mister_manager handled the recap.
Two more Cardinals game to go until the All-Star Game, one today and one tomorrow, and then no more non-Aledmys Diaz Cardinals to watch until next Friday.