When the St. Louis Cardinals thumped the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 Friday night in the sixth and final game of their National League Championship series it simply confirmed what we already knew; the Cards were far and away the cream of the crop in the National League in 2013 and may indeed the best of any of the three remaining teams who still have World Series hopes.
This is, after all, a franchise with winning baked into their DNA. They are the Yankees of the National League, albeit a much more likable version. The Cards have been to the World Series 19 times in franchise history and won 11 of those times, twice against the Red Sox (1967 and 1946) and twice against the Tigers (2008 and 1934). In the the 2000s alone, they have been to the show on four separate occasions.
For all the drama that Fox tried to muster, the NLCS never really felt that close even as the teams headed into game six at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals were very consistent in 2013. They closed out their regular season by winning six games in a row to secure home-field advantage through the National League playoffs and finished with the best record in the NL in a tough division. Conversely, the Dodgers played terribly early in the season, got healthy and ended up winning the NL West with a .568 winning percentage, the worst among any division winners, in a weak division. They had gaps. The Cardinals have few gaps and what gaps they have are small.
The Red Sox and Cardinals finished one, two respectively in the MLB power rankings in 2013 (Detroit finished third and the Dodgers finished fifth behind the Braves). Boston and St. Louis posted the same records, 97-65 with Boston getting home-field advantage in the World Series if they beat the Tigers due to the completely arbitrary All-Star game outcome. Don’t even get me started.
Before any of you start crying foul, saying that I’ve already crowned the Red Sox AL Champions, remember this is a Red Sox blog. Besides which, I simply can’t allow thoughts of losing to creep into my mind, else I will somehow personally jinx the outcome of the ALCS. The bottom line for me is that Detroit has a very good team, won their division fair and square while bagging 93 wins. They have a good club. Boston’s season to date has been both improbable and magical and I don’t want it to end.
Back to the Cardinals. Facing them in the World Series is a scary proposition. They have decent speed, play solid defense and have proven they can pile up runs. You only needed to watch Friday’s game in which they destroyed arguably the best pitcher in the NL, Clayton Kershaw, to see what a club firing on all cylinders looks like. With the emergence of Michael Wacha, the Cards now have a bonafide one, two punch between Adam Wainwright and Wacha. They are a well-managed, professionally run baseball machine. They are a complete team who would give either the Sox or the Tigers as much as they could handle.
Now Boston just has to do their job and win, preferably tonight so we can get on to what baseball fans call the greatest show on earth. That simple little game in which you only have to get 27 outs, score more runs than your opponent with no clock ticking that can steal away the win while acknowledging that, unlike any other sport, the defense controls the ball while you try to hit a 95 mph round thing with another round thing, commonly known as “squaring it up.” How improbable. How delicious. How ceaselessly fascinating.