ST. LOUIS — With two outs to go on Friday afternoon, the St. Louis Cardinals looked to be on their way to a shutout victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 1 of their National League Wild Card matchup. Then suddenly, on a sunny day on the shores of the Mississippi River, fortunes changed and a sense of dread crept into Cardinals Nation.
After meltdown, St. Louis Cardinals fans wondering if their team can come back against Philadelphia Phillies
The six-run ninth inning by the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday afternoon that eventually led to a 6-3 win for the visitors that sent the St. Louis Cardinals to their fourth consecutive postseason loss. It also marked the first time in 94 games that the Cardinals, when leading by two runs or more heading into the ninth inning, had come out on the short end of the score.
At Broadway Oyster Bar just a couple of blocks from the stadium, Jim Phillips sits at the bar, wearing an Albert Pujols jersey and drowning away the memories of the Game 1 collapse with a Budweiser. I asked him about the game’s outcome and he took another drink.
“No way we should’ve lost that game,” Phillips said. “No (bleeping) way.”
So can the Cardinals come back and win on Saturday?
“They can,” Phillips said with a smirk. “Will they? Who knows.”
A team that came riding into the postseason with a division title and the home-field advantage in the Wild Card round that came with it enters Saturday’s do-or-die contest with plenty of questions about bullpen decisions and defensive alignments that will linger over the Cardinals and Busch Stadium until Game 2’s first pitch.
St. Louis will now turn to Miles Mikolas to start an elimination game on Saturday night (first pitch at 8:37 p.m. (Eastern) and televised on ESPN2). The 34-year-old right-hander has a 2.38 ERA at Busch Stadium this season in 14 starts covering 94.2 innings.
“I love pitching here in St. Louis, and it’s nice to have that trust, and hopefully the fans trust me,” Mikolas told reporters before Friday’s opener. “And I know they’re going to show up and be loud, and it’s going to be a heck of a game.”
St. Louis fans will show up … and will be loud. However, in the back of their minds, Game 1 won’t be over until the Cardinals stave off elimination in Game 2 and come back to win the series in Game 3. If they can’t start that journey on Saturday night, expect Friday’s meltdown to be a conversation topic all the way through what could be a very cold winter in the Gateway City.