Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cards, You're Not in the Midwest Anymore

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Cards, You're Not in the Midwest Anymore

Article excerpt

BOSTON - This was supposed to be a collision of matter vs. anti- matter, two forces of nature, perfectly synchronized, destined to end in a cosmic tie. That's the Cardinals and Red Sox, the reigning champions of their respective leagues, offering up a rare October treat: For the first time since 1999, the teams with the best records are meeting in the World Series.

There were compelling story lines everywhere, including Carlos Beltran's first appearance in the Fall Classic; the patience and discipline of the Red Sox lineup, capable of wearing down even elite- grade pitching; and the Cardinals' sense of traditionalism. It's called the Cardinal Way, representing all that's stoic and understated in a world of bling and egos (yes, we're looking at you, Dodgers Nation.)

If anyone should've been able to cope with Boston's multilayered threats in Game 1 - the Red Sox' long, patient at-bats, Jon Lester's brilliance, even the aggressive fans - it was the Cardinals. All year they've reflected the personality of their manager, Mike Matheny, a studied, self-contained leader who could be accurately described as the anti-Ozzie Guillen.

So how to explain the 8-1 flogging the Cardinals absorbed Wednesday night - "a wake-up call," as Matheny called it. How could the team that outclassed the National League in a 97-win summer, held off the Pirates in the deciding game of the Division Series and humiliated the Dodgers when the pennant was on the line in the League Championship Series, look so utterly lost against the Red Sox?

Matheny couldn't explain the catastrophic failure, left to say, "That is not the kind of team we've been all season. And they're frustrated, I'm sure embarrassed, to a point."

Was it losing Beltran, their best player, in the second inning because of a rib injury? Was it a case of nerves? Were the Cardinals that uncomfortable inside Fenway, where the stands are much closer to the field than at Busch Stadium, and the fans, loud and politically incorrect, can leave an opponent shaken?

Back in mid 2000s, when the Sox were as crazy as they were talented, American League teams dreaded having to deal with their fans. On the loudest nights, players would say the smartest thing to do was get right back in the dugout after the national anthem.

The Cardinals looked soft and unprepared, typical Midwestern tourists, showing up on Yawkey Way for the first time. Even Adam Wainwright, their tough-guy ace, shrank from the enormity of the moment, admitting, "Everything I threw was pretty garbage," he said.

The right-hander needed 31 pitches to get out of the first inning, and was down, 5-0, after two. Just as damaging to the Cardinals' psyches was Beltran's injury after crashing into the bullpen wall in right field chasing David Ortiz's blast. Although X- rays and a CT scan were both negative, Beltran is listed as day to day for the rest of the Series; even if he's back in the lineup, his effectiveness is now problematic. …

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