(BaseballStL) -- It began in February with spring training in Florida, when Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jason Motte and Rafael Furcal were rostered players expected to play key roles.
Now, in late September, the St. Louis Cardinals have played more than 1,400 innings - more than 8,000 outs. They’ve played through injuries, slumps, and fatigue. They’ve traveled thousands of miles, made multiple trips to both coasts, spent dozens of nights in hotel rooms and eaten over 200 meals in restaurants and cafeterias in unfriendly cities.
They’ve batted almost 6,000 times, knocked nearly 1,450 hits, scored more than 750 runs and fanned nearly 1,100 times.
Their pitching staff has faced nearly 6,000 hitters and has thrown 15,000 pitches. They’ve recorded 4,200 outs and fanned over 1,200 hitters.
About a dozen rookies have made their major league debut. More than three million people have watched their beloved Cardinals play.
But all that matters now are the next six games, the next 54 innings, the next 324 outs – or fewer, if all goes well.
Veterans will tell you that the difference between them and rookies is the acknowledgement that the season is not a sprint, it’s a marathon with unspeakable challenges both physical and mental; lonely nights, strange hotels, self-doubt and momentary glory. At the end, they play through pain, lethargy and utter exhaustion.
No one lies down when they play the Cardinals. No one gives them a pass or throws a melon ball or dogs it after a fly ball when the Redbirds are in town. They are given nothing. They must take what they want.
And now, the road trips are over, the travel at an end, the hay is nearly in the barn. All that happened on the cold April nights or the sweltering July days no longer matters. The exhilaration, the frustration, the incredible highs and the crushing lows of the past 156 games are irrelevant.
All that remains are three games against Washington and three more against Chicago. Win five and nothing else matters. Less than that, and the Cards leave it to other people to decide their destiny.
They won’t get any favors, no easy wins, and no half-hearted opposition. Everyone will play hard against them. They would have it no other way. They want to win it, not see other people lose it.
54 more innings.