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Opinion | The Cardinals do belong here, but need to hit to stick around

The 2006 and 2011 teams probably didn't "belong" either, but what happened there? The chips are down, but I wouldn't count these Birds out just yet.

ST. LOUIS — Deserve has nothing to do with it.

In the world of sports, you either do or you don't. It's a simple idea. The big stage just makes it seem like an ivory tower for teams as the postseason wages on.

There was an article on a website called The Score that said the Cardinals don't belong here, as in the postseason. The details were a lack of home runs, inferior look with regards to other teams, and some other stuff I don't really care to repeat.

Quite frankly, I hated the article. I say that being an impartial journalist who has taken his fair share of shots at the Cardinals in a rousing yet frustrating 2019 season. Mike Shildt hasn't driven me up a wall like Mike Matheny, but he's made some stubborn calls that caused me to flip a switch on occasion to mad writer. Saying a team doesn't belong in the postseason is a clickbait, tail-chasing tactic that simply doesn't carry much worth. While I applaud the limited character headline, the body of the piece stunk.

The reality is the Cardinals do belong here, same as every other team in the postseason. Trying to find sense in a sport that runs 162 games and seven months is futile. If everything made sense, the Wild Card-winning Washington Nationals wouldn't have defeated the National League-best Los Angeles Dodgers, but that didn't happen. When the Nationals launched three home runs off Clayton Kershaw and Joe Kelly late last week, the expected went out the window. Big networks cried a little, but the right team won.

The right team is the group that plays better, gets timely hits and controls the series. The Cardinals weren't as good as the Atlanta Braves in the regular season, but they ambushed them in Game 5 of the NLDS in Atlanta with a pitcher on the mound in Mike Foltynewicz who had shut St. Louis down days before. The statistics were against the visiting team, but it didn't matter because St. Louis adapted and beat up on Foltynewicz. Nobody saw the Cardinals racking up 10 runs in the first inning, but that's baseball in October. That's baseball, period.

The Cardinals seemingly matched up well with the Washington Nationals this series, but so far, it's been all Washington. They have collected timely hits, played solid defense and placed a fall chill on the Redbirds' bats. They've executed and the Cardinals have not. Simple as that.

The NLCS hasn't been without the unthinkable. Anibal Sanchez is a 35-year-old journeyman starter who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning. Max Scherzer is a future Hall of Famer who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning as well. Two of the Cardinals' four hits through two games came from Jose Martinez, a pinch-hitter. For some reason, Paul Goldschmidt wasn't hugging the line late in Game 2.

While the Cardinals haven't looked good at all yet this series, it all could change with a robust inning tonight. Stephen Strasburg is a very good pitcher, but he's not unhittable and the Redbirds beat him once this season. He gives up home runs and the Cardinals are known to hit them in bunches.

As Corey Miller pointed out, the 1985 Cardinals came back from a 2-0 series deficit, so it's not impossible. In this game, the "you never know" aspect raises your blood pressure but also reminds you why this game is genuine and great. It can change in an instant.

I simply hate the "don't belong here" narrative. It's tired, overused, and hollow. If the Cardinals don't belong here, they don't win 91 games, demolish Milwaukee late, sweep the Cubs at Wrigley or find a way to best the Braves. They would have lost a while ago like they had the past three seasons.

I'm sure one could make a case for the 2006 and 2011 Cardinals' teams not belonging in the postseason's latter stages as well, but look what happened.

The best teams don't make it to the end of the line. Just ask the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. The regular season shares little in common with the postseason because the stakes are higher and the mistakes loom larger.

For example, Jack Flaherty could pitch an eight-inning gem tonight, but the Cardinals need to generate offense. They have put up one run and four hits in their past two games and other than that ten run first inning in Game 5, have scored 4 runs in their last 25 innings.

Martinez is in the lineup, but Dexter Fowler and his low average still sit in the leadoff spot. After being highly effective in the NLDS, Marcell Ozuna and Paul Goldschmidt have come up short this past weekend. Paul DeJong is still lost in translation and Yadier Molina has lacked the magic off his bat that helped keep the team alive against Atlanta.

The Cardinals have pitched very well this series and played solid defense, but their Achilles heel, the bats, could be the thing that ends their run.

Once again, that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be here. It has little to do with results. If deserve had more to do with getting ahead in life, the infrastructure of our society would look a lot different. The hard workers would be pushed out for the smart yet inactive souls. The streets would be littered with "don't even try" billboards.

In baseball, as in life, if you thrive in the big moments, good things happen.

If the Cardinals execute baseball plays tonight, they'll be right back in this series.

They've fought this hard so far, besting expectations and enlivening a fan base. With this team, anything is possible.

The chips are stacked against them for what seems like the 50th time this season, but I wouldn't expect St. Louis to go quietly into the night.

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