Hey, didn't the Dodgers bury the Cardinals back in August?
They were left for dead. The Dodgers did it too. Headed out of St. Louis after their first three-game sweep there in 18 years. The Cardinals were drawing a last breath, toe tags at the ready.
Anyway, that’s how it seemed.
In truth, the Cardinals did look like a beaten club. The Dodgers had stunned them with a ninth-inning rally the previous night and then completed the sweep. The Brewers were charging to the National League Central Division title, the Braves appeared firmly in charge of the wild-card berth, the Cardinals a fading, deflated team.
The Cardinals were left 10 games back of the Brewers that day, and 10½ behind the Braves. The Dodgers, as ESPN/LA’s Jon Weisman noted, were also left 10½ back of the Diamondbacks in the NL West.
The Diamondbacks, of course, never let up. The D-backs and the Cardinals were the only NL teams to finish with a better record over the season’s final five weeks than the Dodgers.
What no one counted on was the amazing collapse of the Braves. To their credit, the Cardinals recovered from their home sweep by the Dodgers and capitalized on the Braves' meltdown in the stretch to steal the wild-card berth on the season’s final day.
And they are now the slayers of the NL’s one great team, or supposedly anyway. The Cardinals pushed aside the 102-game-winning Phillies and have marched on to the NL Championship Series against the Brewers.
If the Dodgers provided the season’s low point for the Cardinals, they were also partially responsible for their highlight -– Friday’s decisive 1-0 victory in Game 5 against Philadelphia -– by sending Rafael Furcal to St. Louis at the July 13 trading deadline.
Right-hander Chris Carpenter’s three-hit shutout was spectacular, but they might still be playing if Furcal had not opened the game with a triple against Roy Halladay and scored the night’s lone run.
Furcal did not particularly want to leave the Dodgers, but wanted the chance to have the opportunity he has right now. One Hiroki Kuroda, in a move unique to Kuroda, declined.
On Aug. 24 the Cardinals were left 67-63, while even with the three-game sweep the Dodgers were at 60-69. So it’s not like they were in the same place. It’s just that they appeared to be two teams heading in different directions.
And one wasn’t a team about to play for the NL pennant.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers left fielder Juan Rivera is congratulated by center fielder Matt Kemp after hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a 9-4 win over the Cardinals in St. Louis on August 24. Credit: Jeff Roberson / Associated Press