Brandon Phillips came out talking, too bad for him the St. Louis Cardinals did most of the walking this week in a three game sweep of then first-place Cincinnati to put themselves into first place in the NL Central by one whole game.
Phillips if you recall gave some pretty scathing remarks about how he felt about St. Louis: “I hate the Cardinals. All they do is b***h and moan about everything, all of them, they’re little b****es, all of ’em,” said Phillips. Unfortunately it was the Reds who got b****** out by the Cardinals thanks to stellar performances by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright on the mound and some timely hitting from their lesser known players.
But let’s be truthful… the fight was the most fun part about this series. During game 2 on Tuesday night Phillips and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina exchanged pleasantries at the plate that were not caught by a microphone. Whatever it was, it led to Phillips and Molina standing toe-to-toe and lead to both benches being cleared, some pushing, Cards and Reds managers Tony Larussa and Dusty Baker being ejected and Jonny Cueto kicking at anything in his way that made him blend in with the netting behind home plate. A barn burner I tell you!
It was a little juice that the pennant races needed. Sure 5 of the six divisions are up for grabs (Texas has all but wrapped up the AL West) but you don’t sense urgency or some dying need to win and win now.
With the Yanks-Sox rivalry all watered down and the Phillies banged up everywhere it’s been hard to get into these races without yawning—until now.
The Reds and Cardinals displayed emotion that we’ve been aching to see. With every big hit and towering home run, Cardinals players pumped their fists with the fiery teenage rage as if they were each sticking it to the Reds.
The more telling thing to come from the series is the Cardinals showing the Reds that they aren’t ready to hand over the division just yet.
St. Louis has slept walked through most of the season due to an unbalanced lineup, lack of pitching out of the bullpen and at the back of the rotation while Cincinnati has shot out like a cannon thanks to a youthful enthusiasm that has taken over the team and lots of overachieving.
(It also doesn’t hurt that Joey Votto is the NL MVP right now and that Jonny Cueto has finally put it together on the mound.)
But Phillips comments seem to wake the sleeping giant. Before Phillips opened his yap St. Louis took game one thanks to a grand slam by light-hitting infielder Skip Schumaker in a seven run fourth inning. After the bulletin board material and the brawl, Molina crushed a home run to put the Cards up in game 2 and Matt Holiday put it away with a bases clearing single. In game 3 Cody Rasmus decided to factor into the series with a grand slam of his own to give Wainwright more than enough run support. When it was all said and done the red birds had come into the Queen City and swept the Reds right out of first place.
Talk now mister Phillips.
“We’re just going to look forward,” Phillips said after Wednesday’s game. “There is no reason to panic. They’re a good team. They’ve been to the playoffs so many times.” Very different from his Monday comments.
He’s right though. The Cardinals know what time it is and what they are up against. The sleepwalking has ceased and the big dogs are back on top of their division just as we hit the dog days of summer.
Cool thing about it is that these teams still have three games in St. Louis in September to finally settle things. It might be the most anticipated re-match in baseball most heated race, and one that’s worthy of watching more closely.
If the Reds need to regroup they need to do it quickly. After this upcoming series with the Marlins they travel to the west coast for a nine game road trip against the D’backs and two teams fighting for the playoffs in L.A. and San Fran. Any effects of a hangover from this beat down will have to be put aside if they want to continue to contend for the playoffs.
The Cardinals may be peaking at the right time. Of their next seven series only one is against a team with a winning record (San Fran). They get to feast on the cupcakes of the NL in Pittsburgh, Washington and Chicago and will have a great opportunity to create some space between themselves and the Reds before they go back at it in early September.
Whatever happens, it should be entertaining. Baseball’s got some fire in its belly coming down the stretch. One thing’s for sure, we know neither of the teams will go down quietly. We just hope they learn from Phillips, if you say something you better back it up. The Cardinals certain talked it and walked it the week, all over Cincinnati.