Welcome to October

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Before the season even began, Adam Wainwright heard the three words that every pitcher fears: Tommy John Surgery.  The Cardinals best pitcher was out for the season.  He would be replaced in the rotation with middle reliever Kyle McClellan.  An aging Chris Carpenter and a still-green Jaime Garcia would become the anchors in an increasingly unstable rotation.

Brendan Ryan, perhaps the best defensive shortstop the Cardinals have seen since Ozzie Smith, was shipped out due to issues with management.  He was replaced by Ryan Theriot, who could only theoretically still play the position.  For the first month of the season, the team clung to washed-up closer Ryan Franklin, who did his best to hasten his own retirement.

Everything seemed lost.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

One month ago, the Cardinals were 10.5 games out of first place.  Fans and columnists wondered if the team should start thinking about the wildcard.    Even that seemed silly.  Atlanta and San Francisco were in the way. The bullpen was unstable as ever.  Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman were out so often they barely played in the same game.   Jaime Garcia was faltering and barely looked like the same pitcher who carried the team early in the season.

Four days ago, we were supposed to watch Albert Pujols’s last home game as a Cardinal.  Maybe he would re-sign but with the numbers being floated around, there was no reason to hope.  Maybe they’d pull it out and catch up to the Braves, but it wasn’t likely.  The fans at Busch gave him a proper send off, letting him know how much they appreciated the decade he spent wearing the birds on the bat.  It was over.  We all knew it, one way or another.  Even if we were hopeful, we feared the worst.  We suspected the worst.  The Cardinals were done.  Pujols was done.  This was the end of an era.  Right?

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

But it did.

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