At The Ballyard ... with Steve Weissman

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cards Beat Mets in Dramatic Fashion: “That’s Baseball!”

If I heard it once, I heard it three dozen times as I went inside the Cape Cod Baseball League while researching my recent book about the league: something unusual, or unusually dramatic, would occur, and the players would explain it by saying, “That’s baseball!”

I mention this because there may be no better way than that to sum up the just-concluded National League Championship Series, the concluding game of which last night featured a remarkable number of unlikely heroes and heroics. Here are just a few:

• St. Louis rookie closer Adam Wainwright struck out Mets’ slugger Carlos Beltran on three pitches, looking, to end the game and the series.

• Light-hitting (.216 for his career) Cards’ catcher Yadier Molina gave his club the victory with a two-run homer in the top of the ninth.

• Mets’ left fielder Endy Hernandez made a spectacular leaping catch in the sixth to rob Scott Rolen of a two-run dinger of his own, and then triggered a textbook inning-ending relay to double runner Jim Edmonds off first.

• Mets’ starter Oliver Perez, a “project” at best (3-13 for the year) who was in the game only because Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez were lost to injury, matched Cards’ starter Jeff Suppan inning for inning, allowing but a single run in six innings before departing.

How could all this happen, you ask? How could Mets’ rookie John Maine – the “other guy” in the deal that sent pitcher Kris Benson to Baltimore – beat Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter on Wednesday to force the seventh game? How could Suppan – a decent enough pitcher who seems never to have quite fulfilled his full potential – be named MVP of a series that featured such stars as Beltran, Albert Pujols, and Carlos Delgado?

I’ll tell you how: that’s baseball, and it’s what makes baseball great.

Cardinals/Tigers, ’68 and ’06. Let the games begin!

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