One game away from the World Series

Garcia fires (AP Photo)

Dotel shuts down Braun and the Brewers (AP Photo)

I didn’t blog after last night’s loss that knotted the NLCS at 2 games apiece. I was too bummed. After Monster Monday, Chris Carpenter was not sharp Wednesday, although the Redbirds held on for a 4-3 win. Hopes were high they could take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series last night, but Randy Wolf, who had never won a postseason game and who had been shelled by the Diamondbacks, came on strong. Wolf had gone 3-2 against the Cardinals during the season, so Thursday night’s 4-2 win as the Cardinal offense went dormant, was pretty standard fare for him.

So a lot of people, me included, were on edge this evening. It was a rematch of Game 1, with Zack Greinke facing Jaime Garcia. Neither pitcher had looked sharp last Sunday, and the Redbirds were leading 5-2 in the 5th when the floodgates opened. A single, two doubles, and a Prince Fielder home run, and Garcia was done for the night, his team suddenly trailing 6-5. Then reliever Octavio Dotel committed an error that put a runner on second and then gave up a home run, and it was all over but the cryin’.

So it was natural to wonder if Garcia, who started the season brilliantly (8 – 4 on June 3rd) but was afterwards uneven, ending the season 13-7 and losing both previous playoff games he’d pitched, would return to his earlier form.

Wonder no more; Garcia limited the Brewers to 1 run and scattering 7 hits while striking out 5 in 4 2/3 innings of work. When he struggled in the 5th (see below), LaGenius uncharacteristically used a quick hook and brought in Dotel. He and the rest of the bullpen shut Milwaukee down, allowing only 2 hits the rest of the way. Jason Motte finished, going through four batters on 11 pitches. Four Brewer errors that produced 3 unearned runs certainly helped.

Matt Holliday’s hand must be feeling better; he went 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs. Catcher Yadier Molina went 3 for 4 with a run batted in.

But Octavio Dotel provided the crucial performance. One night after that costly error, he was called in to bail out Garcia, who was suddenly struggling. Men at the corners and Ryan Braun at the plate. A run in, and even though there were 2 outs, it was a moment when the momentum could have shifted to the Brewers. Braun has hit .472 in this post-season, but on the flip side, he is only 2 for 9, lifetime, against Dotel.

Make that 2 for 10. Dotel threw five fastballs and was even, 2-2, with Braun, when he pulled the string and delivered a slider. Strike three. For that, since Garcia didn’t finish 5 innings, Dotel collected the win.

So, back to Milwaukee Sunday afternoon. If we get to Monday, it’s Chris Carpenter on the hill for Game 7. You learn to never relax with this team this season, but there’s hope.

Oh, and Go, Tigers. I want a re-match of 2006.

Later,

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