“Silence of the Cardinals” More than Just a One-Game Joke

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 Hi all.  Here’s how I see the NLCS through 3 games, with the fourth scheduled to start shortly after this piece goes to bed.  I thought the headline “Silence of the Cardinals” worked great after game 1.  I didn’t think it had legs to continue through games 2 and 3.  Here’s what I wrote for my Facebook group after game 1. 

  Anibal Sanchez gave up just one hit, and that was in the 8th inning as the Nationals beat the Cardinals 3–0 in game 1 of the NLCS. 

     The fans at Busch Stadium got a one-time-only showing of Anibal The Cannibal starring in “Silence of the Cardinals.” I hope they brought their popcorn along. Nats fans watching at Nationals Park ate it up, I’m sure. There’s something about postseason baseball. Bucky Dent and Jim Leyritz were ordinary players at best. Don Larsen will never be considered among the great Yankee pitchers of all time. Somehow, postseason baseball has a way of creating heroes of ordinary men, and Anibal Sanchez is just the latest. He’s had a couple of special regular season moments. As far back as 2006 with the Marlins, he fired a no-hitter at the Diamondbacks. 7 years later, with the Tigers, he struck out 17 Atlanta Braves in a 10–0 win in Detroit. That being said, he has a 108–108 record and an ERA just under 4.0. That .500 pitcher brought his Felix Hernandez or Johan Santana stuff with him last night. Like those two, he hails from Venezuela. Last night’s playoff game will be remembered even if he never replicates what he did to the Cardinals. And here’s a truly nasty thought for Yankee fans–Sanchez began with the Red Sox farm system. If they hadn’t sent him to Florida in 2006, who knows what trouble he might have given the Yankees in tthe years since. 

  That was how I saw it after game 1.  Much to my surprise, we haven’t seen a resurgence of the Cardinals’ bats which bludgeoned the Braves 13–1 in game 5 to end that series.  Like Anibal Sanchez in game 1, Max Scherzer went fairly deep into game 2 before he gave up a hit.  That game turned out to be a 3–1 win for Washington.  Then last night, Stephen Strasburg reached back and found the strikeout machine he was at San Diego State, the dominant pitcher he was before being seriously hurt.  With the help of a 4-run third inning behind him, Strasburg struck out a dozen Cardinals en rout to an 8–1 win.  That gives the Nationals a 3 games to None lead in a best 4 out of 7 series.  The winner will face either the Yankees or the Astros.  If Washington wins the NLCS, it will be the first appearance by a team from Washington since 1933, and that was the American League’s Senators. 

  Until last night, there hadn’t been an NLCS game played at Nationals Park.  As good as Bryce  Harper was, he wasn’t the Messiah who could lead his team to a World Series.  In their first year after Harper, the Nationals have gotten farther than ever before.  Last night, some 43,000 jammed the park to watch this year’s Nationals, a team that were a dozen games under .500, dead and buried in late May. They were the wild card team, as Atlanta won the Eastern division, but the Cardinals put the Braves out of business for this year. Strasburg dominated with what may be the best change-up in the game, and a fastball which still reaches 95 MPH.  Meantime, the Cardinals’ phenom Jack Flaherty faltered, as did his defense behind him. Adam Eaton singled home Victor Robles for the first run in the third inning.  When Marcel Ozuna couldn’t make a play on a blooper to left by Anthony Rendon, Eaton scored from first. After a walk to Soto, Howie Kendrick doubled home Rendon and Soto, and the rout was on. Kendrick and Ryan Zimmerman drove runs across, and Robles hit a solo home run. He was considered the Nats’ top prospect a few years ago, but he’ll never be confused with Victor Martinez when it comes to hitting home runs.  By the time he hit his home run, it was clear enough nothing would stop the Nationals in game 3. They turn to Patrick Corbin tonight as they try to reach the World Series. He lost his one NLDS start though he lasted 6 innings, giving up 2 runs, just one earned.  Since then, he appeared twice from the bull pen.  Dakota Hudson carries the hopes of the Cardinals’ nation on his shoulders when he takes the hill. He started game 4 of the NLDS, giving up 4 runs of which only one was earned.  The Red Birds would bounce back and take that game in extra innings. The righty from Chattanooga has pitched on big stages going back to 2016 with Mississippi State.  In his first full year in the bigs, he won 16, losing 7.  As good as he was, he has to know he’s up against it with no margin for error tonight.              

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