St. Louis Cardinals turn offense from chuggers to sluggers

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The team that suffered through the worst power outage in the National League this summer hit four home runs Sunday night to stave off a feeling of hopelessness in the NL Championship Series.

Second baseman Kolten Wong, a 24-year-old from Hawaii, smacked a walk-off, bottom-of-the-ninth homer to give the St. Louis Cardinals a 5-4 victory over the San Francisco Giants, ending what could have been a doubly gloomy night at Busch Stadium.

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The Cardinals, who spent the season manufacturing runs, spent Sunday nuking the Giants. Matt Carpenter, Oscar Tavares and Michael Adams also hit homers. This assault prevented the Cardinals from dropping two games behind San Francisco in the best-four-out-of-seven series.

It was at least a counter-balance to what seemed like just-as-important, negative injury news. Catcher Yadier Molina, one of the best in the game, left the contest in the sixth inning after an at-bat that concluded with him standing seemingly paralyzed in the batter’s box. The initial reports were that Molina has strained an oblique muscle. What the immediate effect will be on him in terms of sitting out remained oblique in itself, awaiting doctors’ evaluation.

Molina is probably the player St. Louis can least afford to lose, the glue of the defense, the wise head handling pitchers, who also wields a potent bat. Earlier this season he missed seven weeks of play with an injured thumb and the Cardinals went shopping for a fill-in. The Boston Red Sox conveniently cut veteran A.J. Pierzynski, who St. Louis just activated for the NLCS.

Although the Cardinals also have only periodically-used Tony Cruz as a back-up, too, it seems likely that Pierzynski, who was the backstop on the 2005 Chicago White Sox World Series titlists, will find his bat called into service. Although the prognosis was bleak for Molina, in times of great need players suck it up and ignore injuries, so that could happen also.

To San Francisco

Known as a scrappy team that does not go gently into that good night without a fierce fight, the Cardinals’ late victory to knot the series at 1-1 is huge as the NLCS moves to San Francisco Tuesday.

Just as the Kansas City Royals have shown in the American League, hitting the fewest home runs during the regular season doesn’t preclude hitting homers when they are needed in the post-season. Go figure.

It took from April to October for the bats to wake up. Maybe the Cardinals’ bats are taking performance enhancing drugs. How do you explain it? You don’t. In the post-season regular-season trends should be forgotten. Already in these playoffs scouting reports don’t seem to be worth the print-out paper they are typed on.

Pitching problems

Once again, though, starting pitching seemed incidental. Jake Peavy was yanked by Giants manager Bruce Bochy after giving up two runs in four innings. St. Louis’ Lance Lynn hung around a little bit longer, going 5 2/3 while allowing two runs. The sixth Cardinals pitcher, Seth Maness, got the win.

It seems possible that before this fall’s playoffs end we will see a team use nine different pitchers for one inning apiece. And that team will get the victory.

Kansas City Royals
San Francisco Giants
St. Louis Cardinals

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