Monday, October 10, 2011 - Game 2 - NLCS vs Milwaukee Brewers - At Miller Park - Starting Pitchers: Edwin Jackson vs Shaun Marcum - Attendance: 43,937
Albert Pujols, nearing the end of his remarkable 11-year run with the St Louis Cardinals - led the assault on Milwaukee pitching in Game Two of the NLCS - with a home run, three doubles, five RBI and three runs scored - as the Cardinals evened this best-of-seven showdown with their newest bitter rivals: T-Plush's Brew Crew - Final score: 12-3.
My, how time flies. It was only a month or so ago when Nyjer Morgan's inexplicable on-field confrontation with the entire Cardinals team only added fuel to the Redbirds' postseason quest. Thanks to social media, Morgan decided to take things one step further, posting a @TheRealTPlush rant on Twitter, that went vaguely like this (grammar & misspellings approximated):
"WHERE STILL IN FIRST & I HOPE THOSE CRYIN' BIRDS INJOY WATCHIN' THA CREW IN THA PLAYOFFS. AAAAAAHHHHHH!!!" Or something to that effect.
Of course, those cryin' birds would not only get to injoy watchin' tha Crew in tha playoffs - they were also able to injoy eliminating tha Crew from the playoffs. Aaaaaahhhhhh!
So it must have been with great pleasure for everyone associated with the Cardinals - when Albert Pujols blasted a first-inning two-run bomb off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum to get the festivities under way.
Pujols was just getting warmed up. No doubt inspired by additional commentary from the irascible T-Plush on Twitter after Morgan's Busch Stadium meltdown (cleverly referring to Pujols as "Alberta"), the Cardinal first baseman's turn at bat in the third-inning coincided with a two-on (Edwin Jackson on second and Jon Jay on first) - one out situation - in what was still just a 2-0 ballgame.
This time Alberta launched a rocket to dead-center field - in the general vicinity of Nyjer Morgan. T-Gumbo helplessly sprinted towards the wall, staggered on the warning track, flailed at the ball which was sailing past him, then after crashing into the fence, frantically looked around for the projectile which had suddenly changed directions - now rolling back towards the infield. Both runners had scored, as Pujols glided into second - refusing to even look in the direction of his zany adversary, who appeared to be a bit flustered by this shocking development: Cards 4 - Brewers 0.
In the fourth-inning, the Cardinals tacked on another run, as Yadier Molina led-off with a double and later scored on Nick Punto's RBI single to center: 5-0.
The Brewers got a fourth-inning two-run home run from Rickey Weeks (scoring Prince Fielder who doubled) - to cut the deficit to three runs: 5-2.
The Redbirds responded in the fifth-inning off reliever Marco Estrada. Back-to-back doubles by Jay and Pujols brought in the first run of the inning (Alberta's fifth RBI of the game) - and a ground ball and a wild pitch later, Pujols also scored: 7-2.
When Jackson issued a lead-off walk to Corey Hart in the bottom half of the fifth, manager Tony LaRussa wasted no time in getting the bullpen prepared for action. Jackson was able to retire the one and only T-Plush on a routine fly to center, for the first out. Next up - everybody's favorite liar - Ryan Braun - who muscled up for a ground-rule double - putting two runners in scoring position.
Jackson may have been a bit surprised when the call to the bullpen was made - but LaRussa wasn't going to let this game slip away, tying to coax a starter through the five-innings needed to qualify for the win. Left-handed specialist Arthur Rhodes came in to face one batter - Prince Fielder - but he walked him to load the bases.
Goodbye, Arthur. Hello Lance Lynn - the hard-throwing rookie who would pitch his way onto the starting rotation by the following season, thanks to efforts like this: One pitch to Rickey Weeks - one 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Lynn's reward: A record-tying (by many) one-pitch-two-thirds of an inning "win".
Realizing a five-run lead is never a safe lead at Miller Park, the Cardinals went on the offensive again off a new reliever - Kameron Loe. With one-out in the seventh-inning - Pujols floated a ground rule double (his third straight double) down the right field line . Matt Holliday's single to right field scored Pujols: 8-2.
After Lance Berkman reached on an infield single down the third base line, advancing Holliday to second - the wheels really fell off tha Crew. Molina - trying to check his swing - instead poked one into right field, as Holliday scored. Next up - NLCS MVP-in waiting - David Freese - lined one right the middle, scoring Berkman, as a dazed Loe was just happy to survive long enough to serve up another meatball to Punto, who hit a more polite single to center - scoring Molina: 11-2.
Loe was mercifully relieved of his duties after one-third of an inning pitched. Six consecutive hits and four runs. LaTroy Hawkins got the final two outs in the seventh to keep Loe's ERA at 108.00. Well, it could have risen to 162.00 if the inherited runners had scored. And that's really high.
Milwaukee got one run back in the bottom of the eighth, off Mitchell Boggs - who served up a lead-off home run to the soon-to-be-departed Fielder before retiring the next three batters in order: 11-3.
With one out in the top of the ninth, David Freese effortlessly lifted one out to right field and over the wall for a solo home run to make it a 12-3 ballgame.
This would be the type of offensive attack that would become Freese's 2011 postseason trademark. He was about to become a Cardinal legend. Of course, with the constantly changing nature of major league baseball, legends are only preserved for the fans to worship if they continue to produce at high levels. Unfortunately, after a nice 2012 season, Freese had a lackluster 2013 - prompting his relocation to laid-back Anaheim prior to the start of the 2014 season.
Most fans felt some measure of remorse when the likable St Louis-area native was shipped off to the Angles for Peter Bourjos and Randall Grichuk. Many of those same fans routinely watch replays of his 2011 Game 6 heroics - just to remind themselves how good it felt to have that actually happen to their team.
One thing is certain. If and when Freese ever happens to stop by any St Louis area restaurant or tavern for the next fifty years, the tab - if so chooses - will be picked up by somebody else. Although he'll probably turn around and buy a round or two for everyone else, instead.
After Jason Motte retired Milwaukee in order in the ninth, the Cardinals were taking a happy flight home to resume play for Game Three on Wednesday - tied at one game apiece in this NLCS - with a suddenly shaky opponent.
From all accounts, there were no official comments from @TheRealTPlush about this revolting development.