This season has been anything but smooth for the Cardinals and their fanbase. An up and down, rollercoaster of a ride has seen fans start thinking towards 2012 and the team exploring options to trade some potential free agents, only to realize the Braves were falling apart and the team might be able to salvage something in 2011.
The playoffs, or the three games that represent the playoffs to this point, seem to have taken that idea to the next level. The Cardinals had Roy Halladay on the ropes and the fans were excited to see that their team was, in fact, worthy of being in the playoffs. A few innings later, however, the team would show a weakness to pull through and see the victory all the way through and ended up being blown out in the first game. The blowout seemed to confirm to most fans that the team was overmatched and that the Phillies truly were the powerhouse. The road was not going to get any easier, either, as Cliff Lee still had to pitch before they could leave Philadelphia.
Game two rolled around and the Cardinals worked hard against Lee, taking his pitch count high early on and scraping out a few runs. The bullpen, used in a match up environment despite an early exit by the starter, would pin down a solid victory. Fans were back on the bandwagon seeing that the team could hang tough, compete hard, gain a victory against a top of the line starter, and band together for a win. The series was shifting to St. Louis and the fans were clamoring about a potential National League Championship Series appearance.
Game three had the potential to be one of two things: a great performance for the team or an extreme statement by Philadelphia. It turned out to be a bit of both but ultimately, simply a let down for the Cardinals. Behind a strong start by Jaime Garcia, the Cardinals kept Cole Hamels on the ropes throughout the entire game. The problem this time around was lack of follow through. Why Hamels labored and constantly found himself in a threatening position, he did what any ace pitcher would do and worked his way out of it. The Cardinals failed to drive the point home with the youngest of the “Four Aces” on the mound and found themselves in trouble when Garcia left a pitch up and surrendered a pinch-hit, three run home run. Much like the season, the Cardinals would not let this go down without a fight, and scraped together a few runs of their own. As happened often in 2011, the team found themselves coming up just short.
This has been one of the most heartbreaking and exciting versions of the Cardinals to watch. If there is one thing this team has earned from the fans, it would be the support knowing that they just will not give up. On Wednesday evening, the team will take to the Busch Stadium field facing yet another elimination game. They hand the ball to Edwin Jackson and ask him to keep hope alive. They face a familiar foe in Roy Oswalt and will look to use that to their advantage.
Win or lose, they will go down with a fight. Fans deserve a team that leaves it all on the field. This team deserves fans that will get behind them and fight with them. This is the highs and lows of baseball. The fans may be rewarded with one more game in Philadelphia. The fans may be let down and left feeling like it was not enough.
Who says you cannot be romantic about this game?