I guess the “Tigers in three” prediction isn’t going to come to fruition. The Cardinals won Game 1 of the World Series tonight, and in convincing fashion too. I don’t know if you can blame this on the week of rest they had, but Tigers looked out of sorts tonight. And the Cardinals looked very much like a team coming in with a full head of steam after their momentous NLCS upset of the Mets.
Seemingly all the experts are picking the Tigers to win the Series and not waste much time doing it. The way the Tigers rolled through the first two rounds, in addition to the general mediocrity of the National League are contributing a great deal to that argument. But to say that the Cardinals have no chance or not even be competitive is going overboard. I even heard Keith Olberman on ESPN Radio say that if the Cardinals won the championship, that it would rank as the biggest World Series upset of all time. That’s a bit ridiculous. I know there was a significant gap between the Tigers and the Cardinals during this regular season, but people are forgetting too easily how capable the Cardinals are.
First of all, this Cardinals team was considered by many to be the best in the National League at the start of this season. And they have difference makers who have experience in the playoffs. Scott Rolen and Albert Pujols are established stars and Chris Carpenter is the reigning Cy Young winner, with a possibility of another this year. But what really makes me think they have a chance to win this series is that they seem hungry to win.
I think St. Louis feels that this might be their best opportunity to win a championship with the group of players they have now. In what is becoming an increasingly parity-ridden sport (this year’s Series winner will be the seventh consecutive non-repeat winner), returning to the championship series is no sure thing. And players still around from the team that was swept by the 2004 Red Sox have a bad taste in their mouth from that drubbing, especially their MVP, Pujols, who showed a new surly side in the NLCS. And I find it hard to believe that they’re not being motivated by the underdog label that’s been affixed to them.
In tonight’s game, the Cardinals seemed more poised, crisp, and aggressive in the right situations. Unheralded Anthony Reyes, St. Louis’s Game 1 starter was efficient with his pitches and really settled down after looking rattled to start the game. By contrast, the Tigers’ Justin Verlander, the likely AL Rookie of the Year, had his moments, but wasn’t careful enough with pitches to Rolen and Pujols who made him pay with home runs.
I’m not going to go ahead and say that this is the Cardinals’ series to lose now, but they’ve certainly changed some perceptions with their convincing performance tonight, and hopefully, this means we’re in for a long series.