(BaseballStL) – If confidence is trust in one’s abilities, faith may well be the simple absence of reason. For if confidence is what carries one through doubt, faith is the refusal to recognize the task is hopeless.
The St. Louis Cardinals are playing in their fourth straight NLCS because they have both in equal measure.
Confidence alone cannot explain the quality that separated a statistically mediocre Cardinal team from both the other teams in the Central Division and the high-salaried, high profile Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Cardinals barely scored more runs than they allowed during the season and save for a crucial stretch in late August and early September when they went 9-1, barely played above .500 for much of the year. They lost road series to the Cubs, Padres, Marlins, Reds, Phillies – all sub-.500 teams and all after the All-Star break when they were making their move toward first place. In fact, they backed into the division title on the season’s final day because the Pirates lost and the Diamondbacks – baseball’s worst team – played them to a standstill.
Confidence would not be the word fans would use to describe the Cardinals’ postseason chances, especially when facing Earth’s best pitcher twice in four days and his 21-3 record and 1.77 ERA.
But the Cardinals are nothing if not resilient so while past results would not inspire confidence, they must have inspired faith because only the absence of reason would lead the Redbirds to believe the task was not hopeless.
Any initial confidence inspired by Friday’s incredible seventh inning would have been washed away by Tuesday’s seventh inning. In the fading afternoon light and with just nine outs remaining, the Redbirds had thus far mustered just a 32-hop single through the infield. Hardly the stuff of rallies. But a dribbling single by Matt Holliday and a floating butterfly just off Hanley Ramirez’ glove brought up Matt Adams, who by all rights, should have failed miserably.
Why? Let’s count the ways:
•Adams hit .190 against lefties this season.
•In fact, he hit just .212 with runners in scoring position.
•Clayton Kershaw gives up a home run in just 1 percent of all at bats, meaning the odds of Adams hitting a home run were 99-1.
•Of the roughly 2,600 curve balls Kershaw has thrown in his career, just five of them were hit for home runs. (4 of those by the Cardinals.)
•Kershaw had not surrendered a three-run homer since June 2012.
•Kershaw surrendered only one home run to a left-hander all season.
And so, of course, Adams, who looked like Ray Charles on the first pitch, planted the next one in the Cardinal bullpen.
Faith, my friend. No other explanation. No one could have been confident that a 99-1 shot would hit the first three-run homer off the reigning Cy Young winner in over two years. Only the absence of reason could explain why anyone had faith that he would.
Now, the Cardinals, who finished with just four hits and who were 2-25 in postseason history when getting only four hits in a game, move on to play the supremely confident San Francisco Giants.
What happens when faith and confidence collide? Tune in Saturday night and find out.