A guy approached me at the grocery store on Sunday and announced, “you know, this Cardinal series is over.” While submitting to the idea that being down 2-0 to Washington doesn’t look good, I had to point out that it does take four games to win one of these series. The 1985 Cardinals didn’t give in when they lost the first two games AT Los Angeles in the NLCS. They came back, despite Vince Coleman’s injury, and won four in a row to advance to the World Series. After that, the Cardinals beat the Royals in the first two at what was then Royals Stadium, like this year’s Cardinals did over the weekend, and were up 2-0 and 3-1 before losing the World Series.
How often do we have to see 2-0 leads squandered before we realize it isn’t over? The Blues have had a couple of those, and one of them led to a key Fastlane bit, “you’ve got to take the knife, jam it in their eye, through their brain, and kill ‘em.” That was uttered by Doug Armstrong in 2014 after, for the second year in a row, his Blues had built a 2-0 lead in a best of seven playoff series and blown it. Are you so positive the Nationals, who just won a playoff series for the first time in their history, are ready to deliver the killer blow? I just don’t know.
Big playoff comebacks don’t happen often, but they have happened. Would you really be surprised to see Jack Flaherty win game three in Washington? And if the Cardinals were down 2-1, would it surprise you if Dakota Hudson would win a road game? If that’s the case, the Cardinals would come home, and at worst be down 3-2. They were down 3-2 in the 1982 World Series against Milwaukee. And in the 1987 NLCS against the Giants. And in the 2011 World Series against the Rangers, among others.
Obviously, the roller coaster that is the Cardinal offense needs to start going up. During the season, the Cards scored four or more runs 96 times, and went 74-22 in those games. Conversely, they had 49 games (30% of their schedule) in which they scored two or fewer runs, going 8-41.
So far in the playoffs, they’ve scored two or fewer four times and gone 0-4, while going 3-0 when they score four or more. Obviously, they’re capable of scoring runs. They must adjust to what the opposing pitcher is doing and take good at bats. Is there a guarantee of them doing that? Absolutely not. But are the Cardinals capable of it? Since we’ve seen it, we’d have to say yes.
The guy at the grocery store said he’d bet on the Cardinals losing the series. But when I asked him if he’d bet against Flaherty, he wasn’t so quick to commit.
The Cardinals should be loose. Essentially they’re playing with house money. If you look at the talent levels of the teams in the N.L. Central, St. Louis is, if we’re being objective, third behind Chicago and Milwaukee. The Dodgers have more good players, as do the Braves. At this time of year, as we learned in 2006 and 2011, it’s not necessarily the best team that wins, it’s the team that’s playing the best.
The Cardinals didn’t come close to playing best in games one and two at Busch Stadium, and they might not play well enough to win a game in this series. But it’s a bit premature to say it’s over when Washington has only half of the victories they need to win the series, and doesn’t have much experience with that knife.