(BaseballStL) -- If whole destinies can be changed simply by missing a bus, whole seasons can change, just by running hard on a routine fly ball.
While St. Louis-area newspapers and television stations ran shots of jubilant Cardinals swarming over Adron Chambers after he drove in the winning run in the Cardinals frustrating but oh-so-necessary 4-3 win over Pittsburgh last night, let’s not forget the single most important event of the game. Because without this one almost-forgotten play, none of the heroics ever happen.
With one out and no one on in the bottom of the 9th inning, Daniel Descalso did what true winners do, no matter what the circumstances or the situation: he played hard. On what should have been an easy fly ball to Starling Marte for the second out, Descalso never slowed down, even though the chances of Marte misplaying that ball were so infinitesimally slim as to be laughable.
But he did misplay it and when he recovered, Descalso was on second base, in scoring position when the Cardinals best RBI man, Allen Craig, came to the plate.
Craig, who has struggled this half, also rose to the challenge and singled Descalso home to give the Redbirds a chance.
Baseball is a game of details and small glories though fans seldom see or acknowledge them. It is not always the three-run homer or the two-hit shut out that wins ballgames. And it is not always those with gaudy numbers, huge contracts or entourages of fans and reporters who tip the scales.
Over the brutal, grueling 162-game season, small things distinguish good teams from great teams; like running hard on a routine fly ball that will be caught 99 times in a 100. It is that ingrained ability to play the game the right way, to never deviate from good habits and hard play and to never, not ever, give up that makes champions.
A baseball team’s confidence, and thus the confidence of the individual players, rests on a knife’s edge. If success is contagious, so is frustration. But sometimes, in a little way almost unnoticed, an event transpires that restores faith and energizes a whole ball club.
In every game, there is a defining moment; a moment when the game hangs in the balance and all that has happened thus far falls away to insignificance. It may be a pitch, a play, an at bat, a bad hop or a blown call. Or it may simply be someone running hard on a sure out.
Whether this is the game that turns the Cardinals back into the unrelenting winning machine of the early season remains to be seen. A lot of baseball, a lot of defining moments remain.
But is clear is that if Daniel Descalso had not hustled and if Allen Craig’s single didn’t force extra innings and an eventual Cardinal victory, there would have been a different kind of defining moment, one that would have extended the darkness at least another day.