Wait a minute …
Cardinals 13, Braves 1?
THIRTEEN to ONE?
With rookie lefty Genesis Cabrera breezing along, throwing 99 mph darts, closing it out for St. Louis in NLDS Game 5?
Wow. MLB’s postseason took another crazy turn on Wednesday, but because of their team’s record 10-run first inning Cardinals fans were able to giggle their way through it without stress, worry or a growing sense of dread.
The laughter continued into the post-game celebration, when STL manager Mike Shildt went all Earl Weaver — complete with the salty, vile language — during a private (or so he thought) speech to his players. The feisty call to action was captured live on Instagram by Cardinals’ rookie outfielder Randy Arozarena. Uh-oh. If this was high school, Randy A. would have been told to report to the principal’s office immediately.
Shildt doesn’t take Shildt from anybody:
“The (Braves) started some s–t. We finished the s–t. And that’s how we roll. No one (effs) with us — ever! Now, I don’t give a (duck) who we play. We’re gonna (muck) them up. We’re gonna take it right to them the whole (bleeping) way. We’re gonna kick their (effing) ass.”
Ah. And you thought he looked like a driver’s ed teacher, or maybe a librarian or actuary.
We always knew that Shildt had his bad-ass side. He’s part George Kissell, yes. A teacher and communicator and baseball-fundamental specialists. Smart. But he grew up watching the aggressive, pugnacious Earl Weaver manage the Orioles. And Shildt was greatly influenced by “Don Tony” La Russa.
Shildt will (censored) you up!
Don’t mess with this mang.
Shildt had no reason to apologize for his super-energized, maximum-passion diatribe… but he did so Thursday in the pre-NLCS interview session at Busch Stadium.
“I wanted to address some of the postgame comments I made yesterday,” Shildt told the assembled media. “You know, the clubhouse is a sanctuary that is very sacred, it’s a private opportunity for us to be able to enjoy and celebrate. And yesterday, I got a great opportunity to have a moment with our team that is private, should have been private, and make sure they knew how proud of the accomplishments they have and moving forward, to our staff and our players.
“I apologize if my language offended anyone. It’s not something I like to represent, it’s not to be excused, it’s supposed to be a private moment. But I will say that I’m flawed, I have my moments. I grew up in a clubhouse and one of the crosses I bear is my language.
“So I have done a nice job over the many years of curbing that and trying to represent always this organization and myself in a positive light, with class and dignity. I feel like I’ve always done that. It was regretful that that was able to get out. I will not apologize for having passion about how I feel about our team and the accomplishments of our team.
“So I just want to get that out there. It’s not anything I want to talk about moving forward, we got baseball to play. And as far as Randy goes, completely give Randy grace for, he was just excited. He’s a great kid with a great heart, and like I said, grace moving forward for him and now, let’s talk some baseball.
(And Arozarena has a great smart-phone game..)
Enough with the apologies.
Shildt’s players loved the unplugged skipper-gone-wild installment after Game 5.
“We get to see that fired up side of him when the cameras are off or supposed to be off, and he gets fired up,” said starting pitcher Miles Mikolas, who drew the assignment for Game 1. “And when you see your manager getting that excited and that fired up it feeds into what everyone else is doing. It’s hard not to get amped up when you got the guy who is leading your team getting super amped up, it’s contagious.
“He does a good job getting fired up and getting us fired up and letting us know that he’s got our back, whether it’s we’re getting frustrated with umpires and he’s going out there talking to them or getting involved in chirping at the other team or rooting for the security guards to tackle the guy on the field. He’s getting fired up at a lot and that’s good because there’s a lot to get excited about in October and it’s good to see a manager that’s as excited or more excited than his team.”
Before we dig into the NLCS matchup between the Cardinals and Washington Nationals, here are my reasons why the Cardinals upset the 97-win Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series …
1. Let’s say it again: run prevention. The Cardinals ranked fifth in the majors this season in allowing only 4.09 runs per game, a total that includes unearned runs. But the Cards were even more austere in conceding runs to the Braves, giving up 3.4 runs per game. Overall, the Cardinals had a 2.60 ERA in the NLDS. That’s an outstanding performance against an Atlanta offense that ranked third in the NL with an average of 5.28 runs scored per game.
2. The St. Louis starting pitchers formed a solid, rigid wall in denying runs. Jack Flaherty (two starts), Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson combined to pitch 30 and ⅓ innings and yielded only six earned runs for a 1.78 ERA.
This area emerged as a substantial edge for the Cardinals; Atlanta starting pitchers combined for a 4.43 ERA over the five games. The two Dallas Keuchel starts were disappointing for ATL, and the Cardinals got to Mike Foltynewicz in Game 5 by smartly adjusting from Game 2 and laying off Folty sliders thrown out of the strike zone.
3. Cardinals pitchers were stern in clamping down when dealing with runners in scoring position. The Braves had plenty of chances to score, especially in the pivotal Game 4 when the Cards rallied for a 5-4 win in 10 innings to tie the series 2-2.
One key hit almost certainly would have elevated the Braves to a series-clinching victory in Game 4, but the Braves went 0 for 10 with RISP.
For the series Atlanta had only five hits in 39 at-bats with men in scoring position — batting .128 with a .271 OBP and .154 slugging percentage (.425 OPS) in crucial situations.
Because of their Game 5 explosion in a stunning 10-run first inning, the Cardinals finished 12 for 48 with runners in scoring position (.250 average.) In the five games the Cardinals drove in 21 runs with RISP compared to the Braves’ eight.
4. Paul Goldschmidt, Marcell Ozuna and Yadier Molina were large. The Cardinals’ 3-4-5 hitters combined for a .333 average and nine RBIs. Most of that damage was done by Goldy and Ozuna; they had 11 extra-base hits, scored 11 runs, knocked in seven runs and combined for 18 hits in 42 at-bats (.428.)
Though Molina, batting fifth, went a modest 3 for 21 in the series he took control as the baseball hero of the must-have Game 4, delivering the game-tying single in the eighth and the game-winning sac fly in the 10th.
5. Atlanta’s 3-4-5 hitters were a faint presence in the series. Freddie Freeman (4 for 20), Josh Donaldson (3 for 19) and Nick Markakis (3 for 21) combined for a .167 average with only four RBIs and 14 strikeouts.
Freeman, Donaldson and Markakis combined to go 1 for 15 in the series with runners in scoring position.
6. Mike Shildt came out ahead in the managerial matchup against Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Snitker was at a disadvantage in the NLDS bullpen maneuvering after losing vital setup reliever Chris Martin who strained an oblique. Martin was lost for the series while warming up on the mound in Game 1; he never threw a pitch in the competition. The Cardinals jumped on that opening for an essential 7-6 comeback in Game 1.
The injury, of course, was a tough break for the Braves and their manager. But Snitker made a curious choice to have Luke Jackson enter the game after Martin went out, then pushed closer Mark Melancon into a four-out save attempt. That decision blew up on the Braves.
More than that, Snitker opted to set up his rotation to give two starts to Dallas Keuchel over Mike Soroka. I get it; the Braves signed Keuchel to a one-year contract for $13 million during the season and brought him in, at least in part, for his postseason experience.
And Soroka, a rookie, had a brilliant 1.55 ERA in 16 road starts this season. Snitker preferred having Soroka going in Game 3 at Busch Stadium. And sure enough, Soroka mastered the Cardinals in Game 3 with seven innings of two-hit, one-run, seven-strikeout, no-walks pitching.
Problem is, Snitker and the Braves lost the gamble on Keuchel in this series. The Braves lost both of the lefty’s starts, and he gave them only eight total innings. Keuchel was popped for three homers, walked four, had a 4.50 ERA and allowed a 1.116 OPS. It’s easy to say now, but I’m thinking the Cardinals were pleased to take on Soroka only once in this series.
Shildt screwed up Game 3 with his mishandling of closer Carlos Martinez — which included the puzzling decision to issue an intentional walk to the light-hitting catcher Brian McCann to challenge the dangerous Dansby Swanson instead. But Shildt made plenty of good moves with his bullpen, had his rotation set up in prime position, and made beneficial lineup changes.
7. The Cardinals were more tough-minded in the ability to cope with pressure. And yes, that was a factor. With their season on the line in Game 4, the bullpen turned in 5 and ⅓ innings of scoreless relief and the offense (with Molina showing the way) scored two critical runs that prevented elimination.
On the off day Tuesday, around the Atlanta team there was a general feeling that the Braves would find it incredibly difficult to recover from the emotional jolt of squandering Game 4. The Cardinals’ 10-run first inning in Game 5 seemed to affirm that opinion. The Braves walked four Cardinals, bungled a couple of defensive plays, and sank quickly into quicksand as the first-inning disaster swallowed them in 27 minutes.
Thanks for reading …