Friday, October 7, 2011 - Game 5 - NLDS - At Citizens Bank Park (Chris Carpenter) - Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Halladay - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 46,530
It was a game for the ages: Game 5 - NLDS - The winner advances to the National League Championship Series. The loser goes home. Two former teammates and current good pals - Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter - engaged in a classic pitching duel - but the Phillies starter allowed the only run in the game in the first-inning, as Carpenter kept the Philadelphia hitters off balance just enough to secure the most important win of the 2011 season - at least up to this point.
Two former Cardinals - Rafael Furcal - who started the game with a booming triple to center field - and Skip Schumaker - whose ten-pitch at bat ended with an RBI double down the right field line - provided all the offense the Cardinals could muster tonight. Luckily, it was just enough to continue their improbable postseason run.
Meanwhile, Carpenter, who was roughed up in his abbreviated Game Two start - working on just four days rest - rebounded nicely for the clincher. He scattered three hits, walked nobody and struck out three. Philadelphia had a couple of long outs to the outfield wall - proving that any game can hinge on a few feet - give or take.
The Redbirds - not known for their defensive prowess in 2011 - pulled off some remarkable web gems in a game where the stakes were the highest.
Yadier Molina nailed the only Phillies runner attempting to steal tonight - Chase Utley in the fourth-inning on a perfect throw to second baseman Nick Punto. Utley got a great jump, got a great pitch to run on - a curve - but the laser from home to second made up for some lost time.
The other defensive play of the evening: Furcal's diving stop - and throw - on a Carlos Ruiz eighth-inning ground ball up the middle, that seemed destined for center field.
Then, to end the eighth, Jimmy Rolins hit a bullet back up the middle which deflected off Carpenter's glove to Punto - who made a nice play to end the inning. The ball was definitely bouncing in the right direction tonight.
As the stunned Philadelphia crowd watched in a comic blend of shock, horror, and loathing - Chase Utley made the first out in the ninth-inning - on a towering fly ball which backed center fielder Jon Jay up to the wall for the putout. After Hunter Pence grounded out to defensive replacement Dan Descalso at third base - Carpenter got the last batter - Ryan Howard - on a Punto to Pujols putout. Unfortunately, Howard tore his Achilles tendon on that final play of the 102-win Phillies season - essentially ending the slugging first baseman's career as an elite hitter. For the rest of this aging Philadelphia team, 2011 would be their last hurrah, with three straight seasons of mediocrity - and counting.
The Cardinals' fate has been far more fortuitous since the 2011 postseason ended - although they've come up just a bit short in their quest for another World Series championship.
Yet, here they are again - still very much in the World Series hunt in 2014. Their Game 1 NLDS miracle off Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers could well be the catalyst to ultimate postseason glory. Of course, their Game 3 nerve-racking NLDS victory didn't hurt their chances, either.
And to think, a little over a week ago, many loyal minions in Cardinal Nation were ready to throw in the towel - thinking the Pittsburgh Pirates were going to supplant the Redbirds for the division crown - and go deep into the postseason. Of course that didn't happen. Let's see what happens next year.