|Cardinals successful once again in clutch||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on October 21, 2012
Last year, game after game the team was down to its final strike yet somehow managed to get a big hit to drive across the game-tying or game-winning run. And that was of course after barely making the playoffs.
Photo by Keith Allison, used under creative commons license.
This season, the Cardinals once again barely made the playoffs, winning the wild card play-in game on a controversial call. Still, no one gave them much of a chance against the NL’s top-seeded Washington Nationals.
But again, no matter the opposing team’s lead, don’t count out the Cardinals from making a miraculous late-game comeback.
“As a team we feel … what I see is just these guys have this mentality of no panicking,” said veteran right fielder Carlos Beltran. “And it doesn’t matter how far behind in the game, we feel as a team that we’re going to be able to come back. They did it last year in the postseason, and they did it all year last year. And experiencing my first year with them, that’s what I see about the team. It’s just we grind. We put good at-bats, and we [never] give up.”
This come-from-behind ability was on display in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals. Down six runs early, the Cards clawed all the way back and eventually tied the game and then took the lead.
“I’ll never forget that Game 5,” said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. “I’ll never forget the things leading up to that. I’ll never forget the different times through the season when guys had an opportunity to kind of to give in, but they never have. And that to me, those are characteristics of a good group of people. And you put that together with talent, and it makes for a good team.”
The Cardinals’ players just seem to be reveling in the spotlight. The team is full of unsung heroes who have made a name for themselves this postseason after being virtual unknowns during the regular season.
“I think it’s the best time of the year,” said third baseman David Freese, no stranger to postseason heroics. “Not every player, not every team gets a chance to be a part of something like this. And that was one thing when I got traded over here, to be a St. Louis Cardinal, you get an opportunity to fight for a playoff spot year in and year out. And you’ve got to bring that focus, you’ve got to bring that desire.”
But in addition to the stars like Beltran and Freese, players like Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma have thrived off the pressure. They maybe haven’t put up big times stats, but in a big situation, they’ve come through.
“I just see that there’s certain players in bigger situations [that] thrive sometimes,” Matheny said. “And you can’t really describe why. But we have a few guys that we know if they get into that big situation they’ve got a high likelihood of coming through. Some guys get excited about that position.”
So with the Cardinals in another NLCS, it’s a safe bet to think that late-game fireworks against the San Francisco Giants could be the deciding factor in the series.
“They believe in themselves,” Matheny said. “They believe in each other. It’s been this style of team all season long. They just don’t quit, and I think that just says a lot about their character.”