For the first time in exactly seven years, the Cardinals will begin a baseball game having already been eliminated from postseason contention. (We all know how 2011 ended; we made the postseason from 2012 through 2015; and we were eliminated on the last day of the regular season despite sweeping the Pirates in our closing series, when the Dodgers could not win a single game against the damnable Giants.) I’m more or less at peace with this—we all knew it was a long shot coming down the stretch.
Some doofus has likely told you that this game is meaningless. I will not repeat their error; such fools fail to grasp that all baseball is meaningless. Baseball is still fun, and this game will only be marginally less fun than the ones that preceded it. Histrionics over the loss of postseason eligibility miss the point entirely.
Histrionics over bragging rights are another matter entirely, though. This final series of 2017 will determine the Brewers’ chances at the second wild card and (more importantly) the pecking order of the 2017 NL Central. A sweep would put the Cardinals at 85 wins to the Brewers’ 84; anything less will ensure the Cardinals a third place finish in the division. I’ve made my peace with losing a few to the mutant monstrosity that Theo Epstein has grown for Old Man Ricketts up in Chicago—that is a lab-grown Cardinal killer, and its decline has already begun—but losing to the Brewers, this year, when every indicator had them fighting the Reds for the keys to the division root cellar while we adapted to our new role as Rocky to the Cubs’ Apollo Creed, is unacceptable. It touches on my professional pride as a fan, and I won’t stand for it. Not quietly, at least.
#STLCards vs. Milwaukee (9/29):— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 29, 2017
J. Martínez 1B
Here's the #Brewers lineup for game 1 of the final regular season series of 2017! #HuntingOctober #MILatStL pic.twitter.com/OaZrTyute3— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) September 29, 2017
John Gant rolled through the 1st, walking the aptly named Neil Walker but then erasing him with a Ryan Braun GIDP. Greg Garcia singled to lead off the lower half of the frame, advanced to second on a full-count hit and run Tommy Pham groundout, and scooted over to third on a Paul DeJong 5-3 groundout. Alas, Jose Martinez grounded out as well.
The second inning was a pile of baloney. Travis Shaw hit a chopper straight into the ground, and by the time it finally came back down where somebody could get it, he was already sipping a cup of freshly brewed tea on first base. Domingo Santana followed up with a soft seeing-eye grounder through the right side, putting Shaw on 2nd. Stephen Vogt hit a single in only the most technical sense of the word, popping a dying quail into no-man’s land between DeJong and Grichuk. It was one of those popups that’s way too high to fall in for a hit, but falls in anyway. Shaw scored on the play, and Gant escaped the inning without further damage. Brewers lead, 1-0.
Vogt struck again in the 4th, launching a solo homer. I did not think it was going out—he looked like he got under it too much, and it was not a high-effort swing—but the ball did not care what I thought.
The pitch was a middle-middle mistake, at any rate. It wasn’t all bad though; Gant notched 2 Ks in the inning. DeJong answered back with a proper solo dinger in the bottom of the frame, his 25th round-tripper of the year. Look at this sweet stroke:
Brewers lead, 2-1.
Gant continued until the 6th, when he got the hook for walking Travis Shaw and surrendering a scorcher down the line for a double to Domingo Santana. Gant’s final line: 5 IP, 7H, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 HR, 4 R. Josh Lucas took over with runners on 2nd and 3rd. He finally retired Stephen Vogt, though the groundout irritatingly scored Shaw. Orlando Arcia reached on an FC when DeJong tried to take a slow roller home to prevent the run. Brett Phillips singled.
Things weren’t looking good. But Arcia attempted to steal 3rd, and that was his last mistake.
Arcia is speedy. That was a nice throw by Carson Kelly and a good tag by Aledmys Diaz, and Arcia’s slide was too clever by half. Lucas escaped the inning without further damage. But 2 runs had scored, so the Brewers lead, 4-1.
The score stayed this way until the 9th. Sandy Alcantara, who had pitched a clean 8th, walked phillips and Sogard with 1 out, then gave up a single to Eric Thames which scored Phillips. Alcantara bounced back though, taking Neil Walker’s comebacker and starting a 1-6-3 double play to staunch the bleeding.
We made 2 quick outs in the bottom of the frame, then Paul DeJong tried to start something with a single to left. Jose Martinez, who has graduated from Spring Training Hero to just regular old Hero by now, caught DeJong’s drift and did not let him down.
That Jose Martinez is one of the top feel-good stories of the season, at least for me. Love that guy.
Luke Voit pinch-hit for Sandy Alcantara and struck out. Brewers win, 5-3.
The Rockies won too, dropping their magic number to 1. We are definitely third place in the division now. Baseball is still fun, but yuck.
See you in 2018, y’all!