ACKERMAN: Welcome To October
ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Yo, St. Louis fans: Someone slide two of our city’s famous beers over to Pete Kozma and Greg Zuerlein.
Wait, are they old enough?
Indeed. The 24-year-olds have taken the sports scene by storm in the past 24 hours, with Kozma delivering another big day at the plate for the Cardinals (3-for-3, 3 RBI’s) and Zuerlein kicking his way into history for the Rams, nailing four field goals in a 19-13 win over the Seahawks — two of which set club records at 58 and 60 yards.
The Rams are 2-2 and already have an important division win in their pocket. This week, they’ll host another NFC West foe — and by all accounts their biggest rival — the Arizona Cardinals. The Gridbirds haven’t been 4-0 since Don Coryell guided the St. Louis Cardinals to the division title in 1974. You think Thursday night’s game at the Edward Jones Dome has meaning? This should be a lot of fun.
Meanwhile, Kozma, the Cardinals’ regular shortstop down the stretch, joins a list of surprise players through the years that have helped the hometown nine reach the playoffs. Granted, there’s still work to be done, but Kozma’s fill-in work (.338 average) for Rafael Furcal has been remarkable as the Redbirds inch closer to the NL’s second wild card spot. They’ve reduced the magic number to two with Kozma raking in the batting order.
The Cards can clinch tonight if they beat the Reds at Busch Stadium (7:15 p.m, KMOX) — and the Dodgers lose a late-night game to the Giants in Los Angeles. Matt Cain, one of the best starters in baseball, pitches for San Francisco.
In fact, the Dodgers could stay hot and sweep the Giants this week, and it wouldn’t matter if the Cardinals take two out of three in this final regular-season series against Cincinnati. The high-priced Dodgers would be finished.
The Cardinals didn’t exactly go cheap on their 2012 version — they spent plenty of money — but they still had to find a way to replace the offense of Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. And they’ve done an admirable job, becoming the first Cardinals team ever to place five 20-home-run hitters in the same lineup.
Yesterday’s Carlos Beltran Power Show was a reminder of how dangerous the switch-hitter can be when the bright lights come on in the postseason. Beltran cranked two home runs — from both sides of the plate — and moved the Cardinals a step closer to a defense of the world championship.
Beltran has never won a ring. Fortunately for him, he’s playing with a group of men who have experience playing long-sleeve baseball.
Starting tonight, it’s officially October baseball.
Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX. He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on “Total Information A.M.”