How about those St. Louis Cardinals?
Behind the Atlanta Braves by what felt like a bazillion games (10 ½ with 31 games to play) with a month left, they steady narrowed their focus and just won, catching the Braves on the final day of the regular season to capture the National League Wild card. Then they go on to face the World Series favorite Philadelphia Phillies in round 1 only to narrow their focus again and advance in five.
Next up was the National League Championship series and the Milwaukee Brewers and guess what? The Cardinals narrowed their focus and bet them in six to advance to the World Series where they will face the Texas Rangers.
What a hell of a ride so far!
What makes this even more stunning is that they are doing this with their starting pitchers struggling. In fact, they are the first team since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates to win a Championship series where their relievers pitched more outs than their starters.
"It's hard to believe that, man," Cards reliever Octavio Dotel said. "I mean, wow. No starting pitcher went more than five innings in this series, in six games against Milwaukee. You've got to think about that, because it's unbelievable. In six games, we got more outs than the starting pitchers. That's unbelievable. I mean, that can't happen. I don't know how to explain that to you guys.
"But the main thing is, we're here," he said. "We're going to the World Series. And I'm very, very excited to be in the World Series … me and my squirrel."
The “squirrel” he's referring to is the one tossed into the Cardinals' bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS in Philadelphia. It's been traveling around with them ever since. And yes, it's not a real squirrel.
With the way St. Louis has been playing, it's almost like they are a team of destiny. With this titanic run they are experiencing, it would be easy for them to get lost in their accomplishments to date but if manager Tony La Russa has his say, there is no time for reflection, just moving forward.
"No,” La Russa said when asked that very question about reflection. “because one of the keys is, you can never allow yourself to look back, because that's a distraction."
"We remind ourselves of that every day," La Russa continued. "Even today, we went around to different players and reminded them it's always about maintaining your edge for that next game you play. So if even for a minute you do either one — look ahead or look back — you lose that edge."
The Cardinals are going to need that edge, and any other they can find, to get past a hungry Texas team in the World Series. But if any team is up to the task, then it's St. Louis, who has defied expectations and the odds to even get this far.
The next step in this miracle run by St. Louis begins Wednesday night when they host the Texas Rangers for game 1 of the World Series.
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS