- Last Updated: 2:41 PM, October 19, 2012
- Posted: 1:40 AM, October 19, 2012
ST. LOUIS — The Cardinals are living proof there is life after a superstar leaves town.
When Albert Pujols jumped to the Angels as a free agent, the defending world champions looked to be in trouble. How could they possibly win without Pujols?
Yet, here are the Cardinals just one victory away from returning to the World Series after last night’s 8-3 drubbing of the Giants at Busch Stadium to take a 3-1 lead in the NLCS. One more win and it will be the 88-wins World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers.
Pujols, of course, is a lot closer to his prime than Alex Rodriguez, who struggled mightily as the Yankees were bludgeoned in the ALCS by the Tigers, swept away in four games. Rodriguez said he wants to remain a Yankee, but this isn’t about one player. These Yankees could learn a lot from the Cardinals.
On Wednesday night, rookie Matt Carpenter stepped for Carlos Beltran in and hit a two-run, go-ahead home run to lead the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory. Last night, Carpenter produced a big double in the Giants two-run fifth off loser Tim Lincecum.
“We’ve had a lot of guys go down with injuries and a lot of key figures from last year’s team aren’t part of our team anymore,’’ said Matt Holliday, who produced two hits and two RBIs. “We’ve found a way to get back to here. I think it goes back to organization. We expect to win. It doesn’t matter who we have on the team.’’
Holliday called it, “The Cardinal way. ... We’re the Cardinals and we are going to play in the playoffs.’’
For the Yankees to succeed, they have to find a way to pick up their offense, A-Rod or no A-Rod. They must land a right-handed bat via a trade or free agency. A good start would be for the Yankees to go after Michael Cuddyer from the Rockies, who is a solid person and player.
As for the Cardinals, they have rebuilt through their farm system. The Yankees have added pieces from the farm, but they also have elected to trade some of their better prospects like Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson, who homered yesterday and hit .353 in the ALCS. The Yankees traded Jesus Montero to Seattle last January for Michael Pineda, who is on the shelf following shoulder surgery.
The Cardinals have done a fantastic job of using the draft to fill holes and they have signed big-money free agents that produce. They have made themselves a contender nearly every year and since 2004 have produced 41 postseason wins. Over that same span, the Yankees own 31 postseason victories. The Cardinals are trying to become the first team since 2000 to win consecutive World Series. The Yankees won three in a row from 1998-2000.
Gary LaRocque, who was once the Mets assistant general manager, is the senior special assistant to Cardinals GM John Mozeliak and praised the way the Cardinals do business.
“The players know what is expected on every level,’’ he said.
There is one organizational teaching manual so there are no surprises when players move from one level to the next. It all works the Cardinal way.
One more win and the Cards will be in their fourth World Series over the last nine years, again rewarding their loyal fan base. Even opposing players like playing at Busch Stadium.
“It’s always like a college football game here with the fan support,’’ said Barry Zito, who will start Game 5 tonight for the Giants. “Everyone is wearing red.’’
The Cardinals continue to build strong bullpens, as well.
“These kids get an opportunity and they run with it,’’ LaRocque said of the young players.
Winning pitcher Adam Wainwright said the Cardinals are not afraid of the big situation.
“The organization makes you believe you are a winner from the very first level on,’’ he said.
That is the Cardinals’ way and now they are one win away from being the top team in the NL once again.Follow @NYPostsports