September 7, 2011: Ordinarily, winning the rubber game of a three-game late season series against a first-place division rival that is still eight and a half games ahead, wouldn't create much excitement. However, thanks to the mysterious antics of one of the players on the losing team (Nyjer Morgan/Brewers), this victory for the St Louis Cardinals seemed to be the major catalyst Tony LaRussa's team needed to jump-start its incredible postseason run. So yes, on behalf of Cardinal Nation, I'd like to say "thank you" to Nyjer and his alter egos - T-Plush and T-Gumbo - just for being "you". It may take a while for Gumbo to receive this message since he now performs his comedy routine in Japan, after refusing a minor league assignment from his original employer - the Brew Crew. I wonder if the Japanese are digging "Plushdamentals" as much as Brewer Nation did just two short years ago?
The game itself was a matchup between a couple former Cy Young Award winners - Zack Greinke and Chris Carpenter - and on this night, it was Carp outdueling Milwaukee's ace with a complete game four-hit shutout, 2-0. Strangely enough, Carp had been only so-so up to this point in the season, and had been roughed up by the Reds in his last start. That would be the last game he'd lose in 2011.
As this particular game moved into the top of the fourth-inning, in a scoreless tie, the strange behavior of Nyjer Morgan manifested itself, for no apparent reason. With one out, Plush grounded a double down the right field line, which he celebrated while standing on second base with a barrage of expletives directed towards the Cardinals' hurler and anyone else wearing a St Louis uniform, for that matter. This tirade was just a warm-up for what would follow after his final AB in the ninth.
Meanwhile, after the Brewers failed to bring the Gumbo home to conclude their half of the fourth, Lance Berkman promptly whacked a leadoff double in the home half of the frame, and eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Yadier Molina. Cards shortstop Rafael Furcal added an insurance run in the fifth-inning when he lined a leadoff homerun deep to right field, to put St Louis up, 2-0.
However, the 38,891 fans in attendance were quickly in nail-biting mode in the top of the sixth-inning when, with two outs and two runners on, Prince Fielder's long fly ball to the wall in right center field was flagged down by Jon Jay. Everybody exhale now.
With the score unchanged as the ninth-inning began, Nyjer Morgan faced Carpenter for the last time in the regular season, and came up empty this time, flailing at a third strike for out number one. As T-Gumbo began stalking in the direction of the visitor's dugout, he decided to take the chaw of tobacco out of his mouth and hurl it in the direction of the Cardinal pitcher, who by this time had his back to the plate, as well as the slimy projectile that was heading in his general direction. Of course, Albert Pujols caught Morgan's unsportsmanlike behavior and jogged towards the irascible Gumbo to exchange a few choice words. Now, a bemused Carp has finally realized how upset he made the Brewers' nutcase by fanning him, as more expletives (but no punches) are exchanged. The final two outs of the inning are quickly recorded, the shutout in the books; and more importantly, what would turn out to be a key win for the playoff-bound Cardinals.
The following day, Morgan (@TheRealTPlush) posts a grammatically-challenged 140 or less characters statement on Twitter, which went something like this: "Where (sic) still in 1st & I hope those cryin' (sic) birds injoy (sic) watchin' (sic) tha (sic) Crew in tha (sic) playoffs. Aaaarrrrhhhh (sic)!" This was beautiful. Gumbo has now pronounced the Cardinals to be completely out of the playoff picture; something the Baseball Gods never like. But I'm pretty sure the Cardinals got a big kick out of it, as they rolled through the remainder of the season, winning 14 of 19 - featuring an improbable three-game sweep of the now reeling Atlanta Braves at Busch Stadium (September 9 - 11).
Of course, for the Redbirds, the sweetest revenge was getting the opportunity to play T-Plush & Company in the six game NLCS; and winning the Game Six clincher right there in front of Gumbo's faithful Brew Crew minions at Miller Park. For Nyjer Morgan, who had a pretty good season for the Brewers in 2011 (.300+ BA), his major league career was rapidly coming to an end. His act had quickly gotten stale, on and off the field. The one-time folk hero had become zero; no longer able to perform his act in major league baseball. It's really a shame; he had talent, but fell in love with his colorful persona, which really had nothing to do with playing major league baseball.
The moral of the story: The game is bigger than any player who thinks otherwise. Eventually, they either get the message or get out. Some are lucky enough to still find work in Japan.