2012 Cardinals Season Ends in Fiery Yet Unceremonious Meltdown
If that title seems brutally long, so was the Giants 3rd inning in game 7. It ended long after the thrill of watching baseball had gone (thanks Mr. Mellencamp). It seems to me that most teams on their way down fizzle out gradually over the course of the season. The winners grow in intensity as the season nears its end. The Cardinals did something amazing in 2012, and it wasn’t making it to the NLCS with a rookie manager. The Cardinals managed to completely and unquestionably meltdown in just three short games. Having the Giants down three games to one in the NLCS, the Cards found a way to do what had only been done twice before, allow the Giants to come back to take the series.
Two runs scored while Lohse was still on the mound. When he came out after less than three innings, Joe Kelly came in, and five more scored. I lost count of how many separate times the Giants had the bases loaded, but it was a lot. 11 batters faced Cardinals pitching before the 3rd would mercifully end. If it sounds painful to watch, it was worse than it sounds. Joe Kelly got grounders, but they results in errors…and more runs. He managed to record just two outs, before Mujica was brought in to the game. It was, without a doubt, the worst inning of baseball the Cardinals played the entire year.
The Cardinals threatened the Giants starter Cain early, but couldn’t bring anyone home. He was finally lifted at near 100 pitches, in the 6th. Cain was everything the Giants needed him to be. It seemed that nothing the Cardinals did worked right, and that nothing the Giants did ever worked out badly. FOX proclaimed the Giants “could do no wrong”. Clearly, no right-thinking person can agree with that, but you can see how someone could get that idea at least temporarily.
In so many ways games five, six, and seven mirror the regular season: Tragic, untimely slumps and formerly decent players putting together dismal performances. The Cardinals scored just one run in the final three games of the NLCS. To call it an offensive collapse wouldn’t be doing it justice.For his part Yadier Molina did hit very well, 4-4 by my count. It’s a shame he was just about alone in doing so.
Errors and sloppy play were a common theme in the game. Kozma lead the pack in that department. From a hero in game five of the NLDS, to a popular criticism destination on Twitter a week and a half later. That’s Kozma’s 2012 postseason journey. It isn’t Kozma’s fault entirely. When Rafael Furcal went down toward the end of the 2012 season, the Cards essentially had no legitimate backup. That forced the team to reach down to AAA like they have so many times in the past. It worked for a while, and then it abruptly stopped working, in horrendous fashion.
Who else can bear some blame for this catastrophic Odyssey of descent? Jay failed to make a good throw (again) from center field, and Lohse showed up ready to pitch…to a little league team. If not for all the sloppiness at SS, we might possibly assign Joe Kelly some blame for not being able to stop the bleeding. Do we really need more places to put blame? No, the entire team collapsed, and they did it with record speed.
The Cardinals caught a lot of break to get where they did in 2012. They fought off numerous injuries to their starting rotation, the loss of Berkman, and the loss of Furcal. They had timely hitting (yes, from Kozma) to get them to the NLCS. They had a lock-down bullpen for most of the year. When the Cardinals could manage to snag a lead late in the year, the bullpen could generally hold it. They were a good team, and they do have a lot to be proud of. Making it to the World Series just isn’t one of those things.