Chicago Cubs solely responsible for St. Louis Cardinals’ 2011 MLB postseason journey: A fan’s take

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals and their fans.

While my Chicago Cubs were using every excuse in the book of unwritten excuses, the Cardinals fought to the end while overcoming injuries to Albert Pujols, Adam Wainwright and Matt Holliday, to name a select few. While Mike Quade was creating nicknames for every player, the Cardinals were “creating names (Allen Craig).” As a Cubs fan, I obviously don’t like the Cardinals. However, I completely respect the way that their organization is run.

I’d also like to congratulate the Cubs for this astounding comeback. At times, it looked like they were more interested in giving the Cardinals that extra push into the postseason then actually trying to win their own games. The Cardinals completed the season with a 10-5 record in head-to-head games over the Cubs.

There were three games that occurred between these teams that come to my mind. The Atlanta Braves’ and Cardinals’ seasons could have been different had these three pitches and/or decisions not been made.

June 4: Cardinals 5, Cubs 4

The Cubs and Cardinals played into the 12th inning of a 4-4 game. Albert Pujols was due up with two outs and the bases empty. Matt Holliday was inactive because of an injury. Pujols was responsible for three of the Cardinals’ four runs up to that point. However, he had been in an early-season slump before that game. Quade decided that the intelligent strategy to use would be to pitch to Pujols with Jeff Samardzija.

That made Pujols very happy. Samardzija didn’t even back off when he fell behind 2-0. Pujols eventually crushed a pitch out to left field that was about ankle-high. That walk-off home run gave the Cardinals a 5-4 victory.

Quade admitted that he may have gaffed the decision.

He explained: “I’m not in the habit of walking people with two out and nobody on. I understand how good this guy is, so we’ll have to rethink that a little bit.

June 5: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2

And rethink Quade … didn’t.

The Cubs found themselves in nearly the same exact situation less than 24 hours after the previous imbroglio. Pujols was due up with the bases empty and nobody out in the 10th inning. Holliday was still unavailable to serve as protection in the cleanup position. Yet again, Quade puffed out his chest and trotted out one of his weakest relievers to face Pujols.

The difference? He put his faith in Rodrigo Lopez and a sample size of approximately a dozen pitches. That suggested that Lopez was greater than Pujols, and that the risk of a small sample size was worth it. There’s no doubt that Quade wasn’t listening during his college marketing course. Or maybe he doesn’t understand that a decade’s worth of sample size is greater than one dozen at-bats.

Pujols crushed a walk-off home run for the second consecutive game, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 victory. Carlos Marmol also played a role in this debacle. Marmol blew one of his 10 saves after former Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot hit an RBI-double while he was down to his list strike in the ninth inning. This came a week after his unforgettable implosion against the Houston Astros: six earned runs in 1/3 of an inning.

September 24: Cardinals 2, Cubs 1

This is where the Braves fans will start hating the Cubs. Oh well, that’s why teams must control their own destiny.

Marmol had nine blown saves on the season. He apparently was determined to reach double-digits. Marmol entered into the game for what was his final save opportunity. The Cubs had a 1-0 lead. Winning that game would have basically crippled the Cardinals. Marmol got it to a runner on third base with two outs.

But this is Marmol, the closer who can give up more earned runs than hits. Marmol walked three consecutive batters, forcing in the tying run. Marmol walks first batter? Quade does nothing. Marmol walks second batter? Quade does nothing. Marmol walks in tying run? Quade does nothing. Marmol allows go-ahead run on wild pitch? Quade goes home.

That victory breathed life into the Cardinals. They enjoyed another resilient victory the next day after Quade left Randy Wells in the game for too long.

I believe that Marmol secretly roots (works?) for the Cardinals, Astros and Pirates (he definitely works for the Pirates). I’m pretty sure that he sent some off his ninth-inning magic to Craig Kimbrel in that regular-season finale. No Evil Oil couldn’t even make someone as foolproof as Kimbrel react like he did against the Philadelphia Phillies in the regular-season finale.

Marmol is contagious, as are the Cubs.

Joshua Huffman grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as a Green Bay Packers and Chicago Cubs enthusiast. He immediately gained an admiration for Cubs fans after watching numerous games on WGN during the mid 1990s. His favorite Cubs moment was Kerry Wood’s(notes) 1-hitter, 20K extravaganza that was only denied of a no-hitter by Kevin Orie’s defensive blunder. As a Packers and Cubs fan, he suffered through Steve Bartman and “4th & 26″ in a span of three months.

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