Hey, welcome to the NLCS! Prior to last night, the Senior Circuit's ultimate contest was a one-sided affair, with the hated Cardinals taking two from the hated Dodgers. The Phillies didn't really have much to do with it, save a Michael Young pinch-hit out, but we won't let that stop us from providing some analysis on the goings-on.
You may have heard about the batflip that launched a thousand hot-takes, but I don't want to focus on Puig's "antics," because being upset that a guy was excited about hitting a triple in the National League Championship Series seems kind of stupid on its face. No, I want to look at the more unsuccessful side of things and read how the Cardinals and their beat writers are dealing with the setback of losing for the first time in what was seeming like a gimme series. St. Louis Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz, do you have some thoughts on what this loss means to the Cardinals?
By getting all tangled up in (Dodger) blue in Game 3, the Cardinals fumbled the opportunity to put the champagne on ice in advance of Game 4.
I'm going to give my endgame away a bit and just start the metaphor/analogy count right now. I count three here -- the Dylan reference (topical!), the mixed metaphor "fumbled the ball" analogy for baseball, and the "put the champagne on ice" cliche.
Basically, Miklasz has said "By being beaten by the Dodgers, the Cardinals will have to play at least five games, instead of four." But why say simply what you can say with figurative language and references to folk rock?
There is no chance of a St. Louis celebration tonight, no chance of the Cardinals sweeping the Dodgers in the National League championship series.
Or, you know, why say once what you can say again and again?
This was one fuzzy-headed performance.
Metaphor/analogy count at four.
Cardinals hitters got owned by Dodgers' lefthanded starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. Jon Jay and Carlos Beltran played the outfield as if blindfolded, spun around in circles, and were playing a game of pin the tail on the donkey.
I'm going to count this tortured Pin-the-tail-on-the-Donkey metaphor as one instead of three, which puts our count at five.
Also: why do we need this detailed version of how to play Pin-the-Tail? Is Miklasz particularly interested in proving to his audience that he knows how to play a child's game? Because if so: mission accomplished.Third baseman
David Freese left the game because of a "tight calf," and his status for Game 4 is uncertain. Daniel Descalso, pinch-running for Freese, got doubled off second base to snuff the lone St. Louis threat.
Other than starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals' only display of energy came during their frequent attempts to engage home plate umpire Mike Everitt in debate. If the Cardinals had challenged Ryu as much as the ump, perhaps they would have ... you know ... scored a run.
Beltran: "Hey Ryu, what's your position on the continued bilateral division in American politics? Do you think radical dissension is the future of debate?"
Ryu: "I'm afraid I haven't considered the issue enough to speak on it!"
Ump: "Take yer base!"
Instead of having a locked-down 3-0 series lead, the Cardinals wasted a strong start to betray Wainwright, gave the Dodgers hope and confidence, heated up the egotastic LA slugger Yasiel Puig and offered Los Angeles a clear shot at leveling the series at 2-2.
The rhetoric really ramps up here unexpectedly. Wainwright is "betrayed!" Puig is "heated up" and "egotastic!" A nation betrayed!
Behind all of this sturm und drang, we see the banality of Miklasz' observations: the Cardinals lost, and a sweep was made impossible. And actually, due to the way math works, the Dodgers might go to 2-2 tonight. Big news!
This was a wobbly night for the Birds on the Bat.
I'm adding two to the list. We're at seven.
Also, have you ever heard a worse nickname for a professional sports team than "The Birds on the Bat?" And a wobbly night? Has any human ever used this adjective-noun combination?
The Dodgers dug deep, drawing at least some inspiration from shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier gutting it out and playing through painful injuries that kept them from starting Game 2.
The Cardinals simply dug a hole and slept in it for nine innings.
Reporter: "Mike, what was the concept behind having your players dig a giant hole in the middle of the field and lay down there for nine innings? Is this even legal?"
Matheny: "Well, you know, we try to put our players in the best position to win. Also, I am the Lizard King and have ascended beyond your mortal conceptions of logic. The final vision of the seven spheres demands that we dig underneath the Earth. The Dodgers have only won based on your mammalian perceptions. Next question."
Reporter: "How's Lynn lookin' for tomorrow?"
Count at eight, by the way.
The Cardinals still lead this best-of-seven competition two games to one. That's pretty remarkable considering how poorly they've performed in every area except pitching. They can recover from Game 3 quickly. If Lance Lynn can keep the ball inside Dodger Stadium, and if the Cardinals' hitters are able to remember that the object of the game is to score runs, then the visiting team can go up 3-1, with at least a theoretical chance of beating Zack Greinke in Game 5.
Sure, the Cardinals can win...if they remember how baseball works! And they have a chance of beating Zack Greinke, who they have beaten before...theoretically! Hah, really turning it around on you guys.
Then get to that champagne and the World Series. At this point, that qualifies as an overly optimistic slant, because the Cardinals' offense has vanished. And this series is starting to look a little like the 2012 NLCS, when the Cardinals experienced systematic failure to lose three consecutive games and blow a 3-1 series lead to the Giants.
I want to remind everyone that this is a team that is up 2-1 in the NLCS, and that, not two days ago, was crowing about the "Cardinals Way" versus the "Dodgers' Pay." Now arguing that they might be able to beat Zack Greinke is not just optimistic, but overly so.
Am I being premature in my anxiety?
Probably so. But I'm not used to seeing zombies in Cardinal uniforms. I don't know who these people were Monday night, but it ain't Halloween.
/inserts shoehorn into article, pries real hard, shoves in topical reference.
We'll see what happens tonight.
The Dodgers were demystified, down and demoralized after the first two games. But the Cardinals helped the Dodgers get well by stumbling through one of their worst games of the season.
Miklasz really wants the alliteration here, and he just gives up sense to get there. "Down" and "demoralized" are things that maybe the Dodgers were, but "demystified?" What was their mystification? And isn't seeing clearly a good thing? If the Cardinals mystified the Dodgers, wouldn't that be good? And why do we think that the Cardinals were complicit in helping the Dodgers "get well?"
Also, momentum isn't real and is a lazy crutch for uncreative thinkers.
If the Cardinals allow the Dodgers to tie this series 2-2, all of the momentum shifts to Los Angeles. And all of the pressure creeps to the St. Louis side.
Case in point.
If this series goes the full seven, the Dodgers would start (in order) Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Ryu in the final three games. That is, unless LA manager Don Mattingly gets cute and opts to throw Greinke on short rest in Game 4.
If the current alignment stays in place, here's what Greinke, Kershaw and Ryu did to the Cardinals in the first go-round: 21 innings, two earned runs and nine hits allowed in 68 at-bats, a batting average of .132.
And this is really terrible because the Dodgers have been super-effective against the Cardinals pitchers!
Through three games of this NLCS the Cardinals have scored four runs (three earned) and are batting .134. They have scored two runs in the last 28 innings. Other than that, they're the 1927 Yankees.
Is this Miklasz' way of making a "But otherwise, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?" joke? Because if so: A-PLUS.
The offense is missing - just like it disappeared into the fog against San Francisco last October - and manager Mike Matheny and batting coach John Mabry had better locate it, and soon.
Also, can someone please write a hard-boiled detective story where a down on his luck Mike Matheny and his sidekick John Mabry knock through the seedy LA underworld to find the missing Cardinals offense? I would pay upwards of 1,000 internet dollars for such an object.
Since beating up on Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett in Game 1 of an NL division series, the Cardinals have batted .161 and scored 16 total runs in their ensuing seven games.
Yes, these are excellent pitchers.
Yes, this is a small sample size.
From here on in, the article just gets really reasonable and apologizes for its histrionics, noting that the concept of a "missing offense" in a six game sample is obnoxious. It leverages the previous writing to suggest that sportswriting in general is a series of untenable metaphors as opposed to analysis.
Here's a clue: The postseason is a small sample. And if you can't muster more offense than this, you'll be going home.
Also: a clue to what? And to whom? The entire address here is without context or clue to its antagonists. And at its core, it's equally banal as Miklasz' other statements. So, if you're keeping track, here's what we've learned so far: the Cardinals lost, the series is at 2-1, there isn't a chance at a sweep, and it's possible that, if the Cardinals don't score more runs, they will lose to the other team.
This man gets paid to write about baseball.
I'm not stunned that the Cards lost; I'm stunned by the way they lost. The play was appallingly clumsy and unfocused. The effort was lacking. Except for Waino, this was a no-show. And I rarely say that about a Cardinals team.
Good news: we can disprove this statement by science. The no-show no-said defense debunked!
"It wasn't very characteristic of how we played all season," Matheny said. "We're a better club than this."
He'd better hope so.
And how about some extra outfield practice before Game 4?
In the fourth inning of Game 3, Jay and Beltran looked at each other on a fly ball hit by Mark Ellis that plopped to the ground for a gift double - becoming the lucky coin that the Dodgers needed to get going after 22 consecutive scoreless innings.
"Mike, I'm just saying -- if you follow my advice, you'll probably win. You don't really know what you're doing as your abysmal record would show."
Also, with the magic coin reference, we're up to eleven.
Jay needs a GPS in center field.
He moves back when he should be moving in.
He moves in when he should be moving back.
When a batted ball travels to center field, and Jay takes the usual wrong route, I want to shout...
This joke courtesy of your fifty year old uncle sending an email whose subject is preceded by "Fwd: Fwd: Re: Fwd: Re: Re: Re: Fwd:" That's a real good burn on Jon Jay there, Miklasz.
Also, we're up to twelve.
Later in the fourth, Adrian Gonzalez singled to right to score Ellis for a 1-0 lead. But Beltran was so, um, deliberate in getting to the ball, he gave Gonzalez time to to cruise into second base for a double.
Bernie Miklasz is so clunky at writing that, um, he has to pause before he, uh, uses basic adjectives because, well, he's worried that you might not, like, get the idea.
Puig ripped a line drive over Beltran's head and more hijinks ensued. I have no idea what Beltran was doing out there, but he apparently wandered onto the 110 Freeway. By the time Mister October retrieved the ball in traffic, it was almost November, and Puig was all in love with himself, on third with a triple. Much later in the game, the Dodgers later scored the third run on a screw-up by rookie second baseman Kolten Wong.
Hee hee hee.
First off, we're at fourteen -- the 110 Freeway reference and the month reference. Also, what the hell is this line of figuration? First, we get "hijinks ensued," which is soft figuration on its own, but then we get the mixed metaphor of "what Beltran was doing out there" and, apparently, "where he was doing it," as "onto the 110 Freeway" sure doesn't answer the first question. But then we switch to the Mister October personification -- which, really, should not be ironized as Beltran is insane in October -- and we stay on the highway as the month changes for some reason (??). Meanwhile, Puig is back on the actual baseball field and "all in love with himself" on third. Oh and then Kolten Wong totally botches it. Dummy.
Frankly, this is embarrassing writing. It's like Miklasz didn't know what to write, so he wandered into the desert looking for water. But he only found a burning bush. Thing was, this bush wasn't talking to him, and now his editor was on the phone trying to get blood from a stone. And then he wrote a dumb article.
"Our team has done a great job of improving defensively," Matheny said. "We just had a lot of balls in the air tonight that hit the ground that normally don't."
/inserts DwightSchruteMeme.jpg and waits for laffs
The Cardinals' outfield defense has been terrible all season.
Not something you've really covered.
But no, not quite as hideous as we saw in Game 3.
Later, the Cardinals fussed over Puig's antics after he hit the triple. Bat flip, arms raised in triumph, doing some sort of Robin Thicke dance, etc.
I'm going to count this as fifteen, because Puig was not literally doing this:
And if he was, I'd buy every possible shirsey of his available.
"You don't want to wake up nobody," Beltran told reporters.
If Puig wakes up the Cardinals in time for Game 4, he'd be doing them a favor.
The hell? Don't you think that was implied in Beltran's quote? Do you think he only meant Puig? What in the world is the point of "disagreeing" here?
Ryu casted a spell on the befuddled Cardinals over seven innings with his potion of 95 mph fastballs and super slo-mo curves and changeups. Ryu has embarrassed them twice this season, with the Cards unable to score an earned run in 14 innings covering Ryu's two starts. They're eight for 48 (.167) against him.
The word you're searching for is "cast." Also, going scoreless in two starts against a pitcher with a 3.00 ERA in his first season does not count as "embarrassment." Having sixteen metaphors/analogies -- casting a spell! -- in one article does.
The Cardinals' bizarre futility against lefthanded pitching cannot be explained. There really is no logical reason for their .233 batting average against LHP this season. But if this series goes to the limit the Cardinals will see Ryu - and not see his pitches - in Game 7.
Here's one explanation: lefthanded pitchers are often some of the best pitchers in baseball. Here's another explanation: the Cardinals as a team hit righties better than lefties.
But no, no, the actual explanation is IMPOSSIBLE.
The Cardinals had one chance, in the fifth, on singles by Freese and Matt Adams. But Freese had to leave, and the usually heads-up Descalso inexplicably got doubled off second base on Jay's ordinary fly ball to short left. Freese out; brain freeze in.
Seventeen. You see, Cardinals fans? This is why we hate you -- the puns and the lionization of David Freese.
In the fifth inning Wainwright had to pitch out of another jam caused by horrendous defense, with Jay failing to glove a catchable gap shot that was misplayed into leadoff triple for catcher A.J. Ellis.
A fan dressed as a dancing bear did his thing on top of the Cardinals' dugout in the ninth inning. Hey, at least something was moving over there.
Hey, let me tell you about the fifth inning! Ooh, there's a fan who's doing a mascot style thing! Wow, a ball is going to a place! Baseball is amazing, wow!
The Cardinals played this game as if walking around in a haze, and this had nothing to do with the air quality in Southern California.
Eighteen! Eighteen metaphors or analogies! That's obscene.
Also, you could totally count this as two, since the haze here obviously refers to smog and drug smoke. Miklasz is a master at his craft that way. You try mixing this many metaphors: you can't.
And now it's a series.
IT WAS ALWAYS A SERIES -- TWO WINS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE OTHER TEAM LOSES
Watch "Breakfast with Bernie," each weekday
I'd rather drink draino. Or watch a Cardinals World Series parade.