MILWAUKEE -- The Cardinals toppled what was supposed to be an invincible rotation when they knocked out the Phillies in the NLDS. The next challenge was to finish off the NLCS at Miller Park, where the Brewers had by far the best home record in the majors this season (57-24).
But when given no chance, these Cardinals say, "No problem.'' That mantra should come in handy against the Rangers when the World Series begins Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
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The Cardinals -- who trailed by 101/2 games in the wild-card race on Aug. 25 before earning a playoff spot on the final night of the regular season -- won the National League pennant with an ugly 12-6 victory over Milwaukee in NLCS Game 6 Sunday night. The game featured six homers, 13 pitchers and a towel-waving farewell to free-agent-to-be Prince Fielder in the eighth from the sellout crowd of 43,926.
Said Albert Pujols, "It's awesome, but your goal is to win it. Nobody remembers who was in second place.''
St. Louis, which is making its third trip to the World Series in eight years, rolled to leads of 9-4 after 21/2 innings and 11-5 after 41/2 against the Brewers, who finished six games ahead of the Cardinals in the regular season.
"We knew we could play in this ballpark, but we knew going in it was going to be tough,'' Pujols said. "We knew if we could score early, it would take some energy away from them.''
By the time 21/2 innings had been played, series MVP David Freese, Rafael Furcal and Pujols had homered for the Cardinals and Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy had homered for the Brewers. Lance Berkman's RBI single and Freese's three-run homer in the first gave St. Louis the lead for good.
Each team scored in four of the first five innings, and to no one's surprise, the starting pitchers again were not a factor. The Brewers' Shaun Marcum allowed four runs in the first inning and did not see the second. The Cardinals' Edwin Jackson allowed four runs in two innings before Tony La Russa pulled the plug and went with five relievers to deliver the clincher.
St. Louis won the NLCS without any of its starters making it past the fifth. Chris Carpenter was the only one to go a full five, earning the victory in Game 3.
On Aug. 25, the Cardinals were 68-63, 101/2 games behind the Braves (79-53). But they went 22-9 after that to edge Atlanta (10-20) and have gone 7-4 in the postseason to oust the Phillies (102-60) and Brewers (96-66), winning the clincher on the road each time.
"Once we got in, we knew that anything could happen in the postseason,'' Carpenter said. "We have great personalities, great chemistry and great effort. Guys came here every day and pushed hard. They're not going to let up for anything.''
The Cardinals got a scare in the fifth inning when Pujols appeared to hurt his right forearm on a diving tag of Ryan Braun at first base. St. Louis led 11-5, and with the World Series in sight, the thought of a postseason-ending injury to Pujols was a serious buzz kill.
Pujols made a desperate lunge at the diving Braun, who was trying to beat out the grounder to first, and the two got tangled up briefly as Pujols landed hard on his right wrist. He remained on the ground for a few minutes but stayed in the game and had a two-out RBI single in the eighth.
After falling behind 4-0 and 5-1, the Brewers got to within 5-4 after two innings. But Pujols' homer was the opening shot in a four-run third inning that put St. Louis ahead 9-4, and the Brewers committed three errors in a two-run fifth as loud boos filled the domed stadium. Hart was the first target after his botched scoop of Freese's hit put runners at first and third with none out. Then Jerry Hairston Jr. committed two errors on one play, allowing a run to score and setting up a sacrifice fly by Adron Chambers.