By Stefan Guilliams, Staff Writer
Despite the disappointing end to their season, the Cardinals had one of their best years in recent memory. In the process of winning the National League Central Division and NLCS, the Cardinals made the best of injuries and an extremely inexperienced bullpen.
After losing Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, and Jason Motte early on, the Cardinals still managed to showcase the best five-man rotation in baseball and one of the most effective bullpens. The Cards used eight different starting pitchers this season, four of which were rookies. Six rookie relievers also made their MLB debuts this season.
This also goes without mention of the late season and post-season phenoms reliever Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha. Wacha became a star at the end of the season after one hitting the Nationals in his final regular season appearance and then repeating that performance to the rival Pittsburgh Pirates in game two of the NLDS. The young pitcher also pitched a gem against perennial Cy Young contender Clayton Kershaw in the series clinching game six in St. Louis to lead the Cards to their second World Series in three years.
However, it wasn’t just the rookies making waves this season. Without a doubt the breakout star of this year’s Cards club was second baseman Matt Carpenter. Carpenter became an early favorite with his first All Star Game and went on to win the Silver Slugger award. He also received some MVP talk with his 199 hits and franchise record 55 doubles.
Carpenter wasn’t the only veteran making making some noise, last year’s MVP runner-up, Yadier Molina was in the race once again. Molina was the All-Star Game votes leader and starting Catcher. He took home his sixth straight Gold Glove award, and his first Silver Slugger.
Adam Wainwright took home a Gold Glove of his own and was in the running once again in the running for the Cy Young. Waino ended the year with National League leading nineteen wins, including a league leading five complete games. He was also third in the MLB with 219 strikeouts.
Perhaps the biggest story from the Cardinals season was Carlos Beltran finally making it to the fall classic. Beltran is arguably the greatest postseason hitter of all time. Prior to joining the Cardinals, Beltran-led teams were eliminated by the Redbirds by several times over his career. This year however, was the one.
The road leading to the World Series was an intense ride. The Cardinals played through numerous key injuries in the pitching rotation and bullpen to tie the Red Sox for the best record in the league. The Cardinals played their division rival Pirates in the NLDS and won in dramatic fashion in five games.
Then ESPN’s favorite child, the Los Angeles Dodgers, came to the Lou for the NLCS. The Dodgers put up a good fight, but it ultimately came down to the Cards not backing down to the power of Clayton Kershaw. The Cards beat the Dodgers in six games to force a rematch of the 2004 World Series.
Unfortunately, the end result was the same. Although it wasn’t a four game sweep, the losses were just as bitter and heartbreaking. The series came down to the Cards offense not being able to get anything going. The Red Sox were “Boston Strong,” and there was absolutely no stopping David “Big Papi” Ortiz, who hit a ridiculous .668 batting average in the series. The other side of the game was no different. Jon Lester dominated with a .059 earned run average and 15 strikeouts.
The upcoming offseason will be one to watch. Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay, Pete Kozma, Jake Westbrook, and Rafael Furcal all hitting free agency, which means the Cards squad could look very different come spring training. The St. Louis management has already put forth a qualifying bid of $14.1 million for Beltran’s services next year that he turned down. This is one of the many things to pay attention to this off-season.. Overall the Cards did not disappoint and made it a year we won’t forget anytime soon.