Cardinals on Game 5: 'We smelled blood'

Cardinals on Game 5: 'We smelled blood'
October 16, 2012, 3:30 pm
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Heading into the Nationals and Cardinals Nationals League Division Series, St. Louis held a distinct advantage in experience. The Cardinals are the most storied franchise in the N.L. and have been in the playoffs three of the last four seasons. Last year they won it all and, despite losing their best player and Hall of Fame manager, remain a deep team full of veterans.

The Cardinals were patient at the plate, took advantage of mistakes by the Nats, and slowly clawed their way back in Game 5. The Nationals on the other hand wasted key at-bats, left men on base, and pitched poorly in relief.

One unnamed Cardinals player said the collapse began with starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez, perhaps even when the Nats had a six-run lead.

Here is what the anonymous player told Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“Gio looked like he didn’t want to be out there. The guy has a 6-0 lead, then 6-1, and he’s panicking out there. We smelled blood.”

Throughout the comeback, Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker said you could tell the Nats were panicking as a team.

“Before the series started, I said you really couldn’t put a price tag on experience. A lot of guys had the bright-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look. And I’m not going to mention names, but we saw them taking a couple of deep breaths between pitches, and they were up four or five runs. When we saw that, we started talking. We weren’t taking any deep breaths. We were the ones trying to push. It felt like we had the momentum, which is crazy to say because we were behind. But it really felt that way.”

It would be hard to corroborate these stories as no Nationals player would admit such a weakness. On the issue of experience, however, one important point needs to be made. The two big hits delivered in the ninth inning - the two RBI single to tie the game and the two RBI single for the go-ahead runs - were by Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma. Descalso, 25, is in his third major league season and Kozma, 24, is a rookie.

Experience may have played a role in the game as a whole, but the four-run swing in the ninth doesn’t happen without the team’s two least tenured players in the Cardinals’ lineup that night.

And with Schumaker commenting on the momentum and such, keep in mind all he did was pinch-hit in Game 5 and saw four total pitches. He can't exactly speak for the team in what it was like to take the momentum from the Nats and ride it to the win.

Thanks to NBC Washington for the link.