This Thing Ain't Over

In the span of two innings, the hopes of Cardinal Nation swung from bleak desperation to wild elation Friday night during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

A triple off the top of the right field wall from red-chinned Scott Spiezio tied the game at six runs apiece and then an outstanding three-run ninth inning was sparked by the unlikely home run off the bat of So Taguchi. And just like that the momentum that had swung squarely behind the Mets suddenly was behind the Cardinals headed back to new Busch for tonight's pivotal Game 3. It saved the series for the Cardinals.

It's as simple as that.

The playoffs produce unlikely heroes. In Cardinals lore, the most surprising hero may be utility man Tom Lawless. He hit just two regular season home runs over his entire career from 1982 to 1990 and hit only one post season round tripper, but he made that one count. In Game 4 of the 1987 World Series in St. Louis against the Minnesota Twins, Tom Lawless came up to bat in the fourth inning of a 1-1 ballgame. With two runners on, Lawless sent a home run over the wall against Twins ace Frank Viola for a three-run shot that proved to be the game winner.

As Lawless watched it leave the park, he emphatically flipped his bat and let out a primal yell as he looked into the Cardinals jubilant dugout. Lawless had a meager two hits in 25 at bats during the entire 1987 season. You say, "I don't believe So Taguchi just hit that home run," and I give you Tom Lawless.

So had two home runs during the regular season and one a week ago in the National League Division Series, but few fans can honestly say they had lots of faith in a So Taguchi vs. Billy "One of the Best Closers in Baseball" Wagner match up.

What's crazier is So Taguchi has two post-season at bats. He has two post season home runs. I really have no analysis for that. How can you break that down? That's got to be a record or something. Things like that just don't happen – in the regular season.

Spiezio played in only 66 games this year, but is piling up the meaningful hits. His triple during the last weekend of the regular season probably prevented the Cardinals from playing the extra game against San Francisco. His single in Game 4 of the NLDS helped put the Padres away. His triple Friday night breathed life into a post-season perilously close to being on life support. Going back to his days in Anaheim, Spiezio is now 14-20 in the post season with runners in scoring position. Wow.

No one in spring training thought this guy with the goofy facial hair and a large pinup tattoo of his attractive wife on his arm would make an impact on this team. His career was all but finished last year in Seattle. He strained his left oblique early last year and was never healthy before getting released last August. He posted a dismal .064 batting average by getting only three hits in 47 at bats. And now his bat is as hot as his chin hair is red.

After the game Friday, a loose Tony La Russa appeared in front of the press in a sharp dark suit ready to make the overnight flight back to St. Louis for Game 3. He was in a chipper mood. He even cracked a few jokes.

When asked to put Friday's game in perspective with all of his past post-season games, La Russa said he would have time to do that with a day off, but instead he was already thinking about the game Saturday night. He did have the game's lineup card in his suit coat pocket as a memento.

When asked about the strong performance of the bullpen and the pitchers in general and what his message has been to the staff, La Russa quipped that pitching coach Dave Duncan doesn't allow him to talk to the pitchers. All he can tell them is "Here's the ball. Throw strikes." Whatever he's saying, I hope he keeps on saying it.

Friday night's game is the perfect example that anything can happen in October. Anything. Just when the Cardinals looked dead and buried, ready to say farewell during a few last home games this weekend, all of a sudden the Mets are on the defensive and have to worry about winning at least one game on the road to see Shea Stadium again this year.

Just remember: these times are kind of special. Enjoy them. Yell your head off. Help push this team to the next level. Send the message that these Cardinals are for real. And if you've got any extra tickets, drop me a line.

Seriously: lee@stlouisgametime.com


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