(BaseballStL) -- Not too far from St. Louis is the little town of Collinsville, Ill.
Very little distinguishes Collinsville from every other small town in the Midwest, but this wasn’t always so. For many years, Collinsville, Ill. was the home of some of the best high school basketball in Illinois.
The Kahoks were state champions in 1961 and 1965 and perennial title contenders every year until their legendary coach Vergil Fletcher retired.
Near the end of his career in 1978, Fletcher took one last team to the state tournament, where eventual state champion Lockport defeated them, 55-53.
Asked after the game what he felt the difference was, Fletcher paused and said simply, “Sometimes when two great teams play it isn’t necessarily about which one is better. It’s just about the way the ball bounces.”
And so, on Wednesday night and for the 24th time this year, the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Pittsburgh Pirates, this time for the right to advance to the National League Championship Series.
The Pirates have won 12 times this year, the Cards 11. The Cardinals have scored 101 runs, the Pirates 99. Their biggest Central Division lead was four games. The Pirates biggest lead was four games.
Both pitching staffs have virtually the same WHIP. Total strikeouts and runs surrendered over the course of the season are nearly identical.
The Cardinals hit better and scored more runs during the regular season but the Pirate pitching staff had a lower ERA and held opponents to a lower batting average.
The Cards fanned 200 fewer times but the Pirates hit 36 more homers.
The advantage, ever so slight, rests with the Cardinals. Home field aside, when it counts the most, defense wins games. The Cardinals made 31 fewer errors and turned 23 more double plays. Cut it even finer? The Cardinals had nearly 50 fewer wild pitches, because they have Yadier Molina and the Pirates don’t.
Could it come down to a wild pitch? Remember Pete Kozma racing home with the winning run on Sept. 13 to beat Seattle 2-1 in the 10th?
Baseball players have a saying: When it counts, I’d rather be lucky than good.
That’s just another way of saying when two great teams play, sometimes the result is determined by how the ball bounces.
Two great teams. One game.
For all of it.