NLCS Game 1
Despite the loss, I wasn’t too distraught with last night’s results. The Cardinals played pretty well and actually could’ve scored some early runs if it weren’t for a handful of hard hit balls being hit directly at the Mets defense. At least two of those drives ended innings that had serious run scoring potential, so it’s tough for me to get too bent out of shape about the Cardinals overall play. (I don’t want to talk about Pujols getting doubled off by Beltran, ever).
Sure, I screamed “FUCK!!!” the moment that Beltran’s bat made contact with Weaver’s offering in the sixth but, even with that, I came away somewhat encouraged by the overall performance of St. Louis. I’m sure that plenty of people want to blame somebody for Beltran’s homer (Weaver, LaRussa, Tim Robbins) but it was more a case of a great player (Beltran) jumping on Weaver’s mistake and making the most of it than anything in particular that was done so egregiously wrong. I’ve said, numerous times, that if you get 5 good innings from Weaver in a start then you should thank your lucky stars and go to the bullpen, immediately. However, I was all for Weaver going out to start the sixth after the way he had pitched through the first 5 innings. I mean, it’s not like the Cardinals’ bullpen is exactly a murderer’s row of late inning efficiency these days. With that said, I would’ve pulled Weaver as soon as LoDuca singled to start the sixth. They gave Weaver a shot to keep it going and he didn’t get it done. At that point, I’d have gotten Tyler Thompson in to face Beltran. Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s still tough to hammer LaRussa too much for his decision to leave Weaver in. St. Louis didn’t lose the game right then and there. The Cards would've loved to get both games at Shea but I doubt they'd tell you they really expected that to happen. Now, if Carpenter can’t keep the Cards close late into the game tonight, well, then they might be in trouble. Big trouble. Carpenter is their ace and tonight’s his night to carry the banner for his team.
A couple of more thoughts:
- What’s Beltran make, like $18 million a year? With that kind of money you would think that he could afford to have that monstrous mole of his removed. If I remember correctly, Uncle Buck said it only cost a quarter to have a rat gnaw that type of thing off your face. Of course, that was the 80’s so it might be closer to $5 by now.
- Tom Glavine’s at-bat music is Lil’ John? Really? How did this happen? You could’ve given me 200 guesses on the artist whom Glavine uses for his at-bat music and I never would’ve even gotten close to Lil’ John (Lil’ Scrappy, maybe). I guess all those years in Atlanta had more of an affect on Tom then we thought, huh?
When I first looked at Florida’s 2006 schedule earlier this year, I put my head through a plate glass window. When I managed to clean myself up and remove all the loose glass from my scalp I took another look and noticed the insane stretch of games during the month of October. It was at this point that I poured peroxide over my fresh wounds in an attempt to quell the pains of anxiety that were pounding in my skull, to no avail. Eventually, I settled down enough to start deciphering the schedule with a little more precision. Through all of this, it became clear to me that the game which presented the greatest challenge to the Gators this year (and there were many) was the matchup at Auburn. There were three primary reasons for this:
Homefield Advantage: Coming into the season, this game was, in my opinion, the Gators toughest test on the road. Think about that for a second…that’s pretty impressive when you consider that Florida faces it’s two biggest rivals (FSU, Tennessee) on the road this year, and that was before we found out the game would be a night game. Not only would this game be a road game in one of the nations toughest (and most underrated) places to play, but it would also be against the team which most pundits had anointed as the SEC’s most talented. Finally, as if playing in Jordan-Hare, at night, against a team that had an SEC win streak of 19 games coming into the season weren’t enough, there’s this: Auburn has six all-time wins at home against Top 5 opponents. Three of those six wins have come against the University of Florida.
Defense: There’s plenty of defense in the SEC, this we know. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to name a conference in the country that can even compete with the SEC when it comes to standout defenses or defensive players. The main attribute that most people point to when attempting to explain the difference between SEC defenses and the rest of the country is speed. Defenses in the SEC are scary fast. Urban Meyer learned this firsthand last year during the first half of the SEC season. This is where Auburn comes in. Even in the SEC, Auburn’s defense is supremely fast. Former Defensive Coordinator Gene Chizik preferred smaller, faster defensive players and recruited justly (Don't believe me, Auburn's top four linebackers average 215 lbs.)
Though he’s left for Texas, Chizik left Auburn with a bevy of extremely fast, if a little undersized, defensive players. That’s precisely why the Auburn defense scares me so much. They don't overpower their opponents as much as run right past them. Florida’s offensive line has stood up to some stern tests so far this year. However, they haven’t faced a defense with the overall speed of Auburn, and they certainly haven’t done so in front of 90,000 screaming fans. Make no mistake, tomorrow night’s game will be the ultimate test for not only this Gator offensive line, but for this entire offense.
Kenny Irons: The bane of every South Carolina fans existence himself. I have a friend who attended USC who swears he’ll punch Lou Holtz in the face if he ever gets the chance, all because of Kenny Irons. You know what? I don’t blame him. In fact, I’d have already found a way to make it happen if I was him. Simply put, Kenny Irons is a beast. He’s the total package as far as running backs go. He possesses breakaway speed, great vision, superior cutback ability and a force of will that allows him to constantly break tackles and generate extra yardage after contact. He scares the bejesus out of me. Florida boasts the nation’s #2 rush defense but they have yet to face a truly elite back this season. The closest that they’ve seen is Alabama’s Kenneth Darby, and he hasn’t been the nearly the back that he was in 2005 yet this year. If Florida can’t contain Irons and force Auburn into 3rd and medium or long, then the entire game changes for Florida. This Gator defense is a different breed from those that’s we’ve seen in years past. They are tougher, deeper, fast, and more physical. However, they haven’t erased the memories of so many “soft” Gator defenses of the past just yet. At least not in the eyes of many pundits on the national scene. Saturday night is their chance to do just that. If they contain Irons and escape the plains with a win, then the whole country will have no chance but to believe, no, know that this is a different Gator squad, a tough Gator squad and a Gator squad that can no longer be overlooked.
The Cardinals also happen to be playing in Game 3 of the NLCS at the same time as the Gators game at Auburn. I'm not really sure how I'm going to handle the combined stress of these two games at once, though I'm pretty sure that alcohol will be involved. Prominently involved.
Reggie Nelson, and a some booze should make Saturday a little easier on my nerves.