I do believe we may have seen the future last night. Or, at least, I hope we saw the future.
Seems like a trip to south Florida always does wonders for the spirits (and the record) for the Cardinals, doesn't it? The Cards have consistently pounded the Marlins the past few years, both here in St. Louis and down in Miami. It's just a shame we don't see them more often. Less games against the Brewers and more against the Marlins, and we might have something going.
Of course, my favorite part of the game last night? The last two innings.
We finally saw the arrangement at the back end of the bullpen that I've been campaigning for the last, well, quite a while now, and guess what? It looked good. Kyle McClellan, despite one of the odder plays you'll ever see in left field, threw a fantastic eighth inning, not allowing a single run after having Hanley Ramirez at third with nobody out, and what can you say about Chris Perez in the ninth?
I will say this: Perez looked awfully tight to start that ninth inning, and I found a litany of "oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit oh shit" running through my head. Partially because I was afraid he was going to have a bad outing, but also, to be perfectly honest, because I remain utterly convinced that the first misstep for Perez will cost him an immediate demotion back out of the closer's role, and we'll be right back where we were before. Which is to say, watching guys like Ryan Franklin and Izzy hand over the game to the opposition night after night.
Perez had good reason to be a little tight. It was his first time pitching back in his own backyard. He's from the Miami area originally, and attended the U, as I'm sure we all knew. He looked to be trying to throw the ball through a brick wall to begin last night, and his command over the ball suffered accordingly.
He walked Dan Uggla after going to a full count, and that "here we go again: feeling was thick in the St. Louis night. He threw three straight balls to the next batter, and the souls of Cardinal fans everywhere groaned aloud at the prospect of yet another blown save.
And then Uggla saved the Cardinals' night.
Seriously, what in the hell was he doing, trying to steal a base?
One, Dan Uggla isn't the kind of runner who should ever be running on Yadier Molina anyway. Guys like Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes or Carl Crawford? Sure, take off. He may still get you, but you've at least got a shot. At the very least, it'll be exciting. But Dan Uggla? Not so much.
Two, did Uggla not notice the home run that Joe Mather hit in the top of the inning? Uggla could have stolen second base, stolen third base, stolen home and the Marlins still would have been down a run.
After that, Perez looked like he took a breath, settled himself, and made the last two hitters look just the teensiest bit over-matched. Two strikeouts, one looking, one swinging, and the game was over. And that, children, is what we call a closer.
What I really found myself wondering last night was whether or not it was going to last. Not whether or not McClellan and Perez would continue to be good or not; personally, I thought both of these guys were headed for big things all along. No, what I wondered was whether or not Tony La Russa will now have the good sense to just get the hell out of the way and let this thing happen. We're all well aware by this point in time of Tony's penchant for over-managing, for relentlessly fiddling with every little single thing in sight until you can clearly see his fingerprints, for good and ill. I know I, for one, will be waiting anxiously to see if he can just take his hands off the wheel here and let these guys take care of the game for him.
Personally, I hope this is what we see the rest of the year. Every time the Cardinals have a lead. Hear that, Tony? Every time. K-Mac in the eighth, Perez in the ninth, and Springer hanging around to put out the fires wherever they may occur.
Say it with me, Tony: the future is now. The future is now. There are finally a couple of guys you can rely on again, pitchers who can overpower hitters. Pitchers who don't have to rely on pitching to contact. I know that's tough to imagine, for you and Duncan both, but that's just how it is right now. Just go with it, Tony. Come on, one more time. The future is now.
Okay, that sounds good. Now go take a load off. The pitchers will take care of the rest.