Cardinals fans got to see the minting of a superstar Friday night when rookie pitcher Michael Wacha out-dueled the guy who is going to win the Cy Young Award this year to win the National League Championship.
That's no exaggeration.
Wacha completely owned Game 6 of the NLCS. He was composed from start to end and only gave up one hard-hit ball all night against a team that has six or seven guys who can hit the ball out of the park with regularity.
A college player a year and a half ago, Wacha busted through the minor leagues, made his debut in the majors, contributed down the stretch and then bested the top competition in the best baseball league in the world, allowing one run in three playoff starts. It doesn't get much better than that.
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To be completely honest, I didn't think the Cardinals had the horses to beat the Dodgers with Allen Craig off the roster with an ankle/foot injury. It's tough to lose your clean-up hitter and put up runs against a team with a pair of aces in Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The Cardinals, had virtually no bench. Their closer for most of the season fell apart. And they haven't hit much at all since the post season started.
In order to win they were going to have to get a huge contribution from somewhere other than the usual suspects.
The Cardinals won the series because Wacha just plain out-pitched Kershaw in a 1-0 win in Game 2. Then he had to prove in Game 6 that his previous success was not fluke.
Let's not pretend that the game wasn't pressure packed. The Cardinals were still smarting from their loss of three straight games to miss a chance to beat the Giants and go to the World Series in 2012.
I'm most impressed with this Cardinals team because it not only survived the adversity it faced. It seemed to thrive in the face of adversity. While the Cardinals have a lot of talent, this is definitely a team that plays better than the sum of its parts.
The Cardinals aren't exceptionally good on defense. They don't put up flashy numbers at the plate. But this team plays smart baseball and makes the right plays when it needs to.
Not only do I hope that it can go all the way this year. But it seems like, with all the young talent on the roster, that this team is nowhere near its peak.