The post-season schedule was determined earlier in the afternoon when the Washington Nationals clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs, setting up the National League Division Series match-ups. The game time for tomorrow’s wild card playoff was announced hours before as well. (It’s 4 p.m. Central in case you haven’t heard yet.)
But the win was plenty meaningful.
And Shelby Miller’s first major league start was almost something to really remember — even though the 42,000-plus who were at Busch Stadium and those watching on television won’t soon forget it.
It’s not often a starting pitcher has one hit, let alone two, before he gives one up to the opposition. Yet that’s exactly what happened. Shelby doubled in his first at-bat in the third and singled in the fifth — yet the Reds first hit, and only one he allowed, was a two-out single over Ryan Jackson’s head by Wilson Valdez in the sixth.
In addition to shutting down the Reds offense, Shelby also struck out seven — including five straight in the fourth and fifth innings: Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen and Drew Stubbs (with a Ryan Hanigan hit-by-pitch between the latter two).
It was quite a night for the Cardinals 2009 top draft pick — and quite a night for the Cards farm system overall. The starting nine all came up through the St. Louis system: Adron Chambers, Shane Robinson, Skip Schumaker (yes, he was batting third), Matt Carpenter, Tony Cruz, Bryan Anderson (at first base!), Jackson (at second!), Pete Kozma (of course!) and Miller.
For those who love following the minor leagues and watching the prospects, great fun indeed. And Adron Chambers led off the night for the Cardinals doing something the entire Pirates team couldn’t do against Homer Bailey last Friday: get a hit. The Cards actually had nine hits on the night against a succession of Reds pitchers but it wasn’t until the eighth inning, when Shane Robinson beat out an infield single, that they managed to score the game’s only run on a single by Matt Carpenter.
Another highlight of the night came the inning before, when Lance Berkman appeared in the on-deck circle with two outs. Given that Pete Kozma was batting, of course he singled — which brought LB to the plate. Take a look at what happened.
Yes, I will admit it, I cried — and especially after seeing him make it all the way down to purposely touch first base. After the game, he told Jim Hayes of Fox Sports Midwest that he hadn’t talked to Mike Matheny about it beforehand. “He pretty much made me do it. I didn’t want to do it, but he thought it would be good. So I gave in and I’m glad I did because it was such a warm ovation. It was great.”
Jenifer Langosch has more from both Matheny and LB:
“He didn’t think it was going to be all that big of a deal,” Matheny said. “He thought he might walk out there and hear crickets.”
Not a chance.
The reception, which included a standing ovation from the crowd and everyone in the Cardinals’ dugout, was resounding. Berkman doffed his helmet and later waved his hand in appreciation. After grounding out, he jogged into the dugout while fans continued their applause.
“It was a very nice moment for me being out there and really just a chance to tip my hat to the crowd — a great city, a great group of fans,” Berkman said. “Obviously, I’ve just enjoyed the heck out of my time here. That was one of those mutual thank yous. I really just wanted to thank the crowd and the city of St. Louis. I’m glad I got a chance to put on the Cardinal uniform.
“It’s pretty emotional, it definitely is for me. But looking back on it, I’m sure I’ll really appreciate it more as I go along.”
While that in all likelihood was his final Cardinals at-bat, it could have been his last career at-bat as well.
There was another milestone achieved last night too, in the top of the ninth inning. While Marc Rzepczynski struck out Votto for the first out (following an error by Anderson at first — although, as mentioned on Fox Midwest, Anderson had played exactly one inning there before), Jason Motte then entered the game. He easily retired the final two Reds on ground-outs to earn his 42nd save — which ties him with Craig Kimbrel of the Braves for the National League lead. But there was more to the save than just the number, as Langosch wrote:
This also marks the first time in franchise history that one player has collected every team save. “I told Mike [Matheny] last night that, ‘For you to believe in me every single time, whether good or bad. … it’s pretty cool for you to have my back,’” Motte said.
So, with that, Game 162 and the 2012 regular season ended.
Now it’s onto tomorrow and the wild card playoff game against the Braves in Atlanta. As mentioned, game time is 4 p.m. Central on TBS. The starters are Kyle Lohse and Kris Medlen — and the winner moves onto face the Washington Nationals in the NLDS on Sunday.
To say the least.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.