Saturday, October 08, 2011

Cardinals Advance + Rugby World Cup Update

 Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals
after final out (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
They did it again! The St. Louis Cardinals, behind last night's extraordinary 3-hit, 9-inning shutout by ace Chris Carpenter, defeated the Major League Baseball best-record holding Philadelphia Phillies, who'd won 102 games, to advance to the National League Championship Series! The Cardinals managed just six total hits and one run, in the first inning, on center-fielder Skip Schumaker's double that scored shortstop Rafael Furcal, who had tripled off the Phillies' leading pitcher, Roy Halladay, but that was enough. As he had on the regular season's final day, Carpenter returned to the form that won him a Cy Young Award back in 2005, striking out 3 and walking none. His final line was 9.0 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 0 runs batted in, 3 strikeouts, and 0 home runs. Halladay was nearly as good, allowing 6 hits in 8 innings while striking out 7. He finished the series at 1 win and 1 loss. Reliever Ross Madson did not allow a hit or run, and struck out 2.

One bizarre twist in the game came after the final at bat, when the Phillies lost slugger (and native St. Louisan) Ryan Howard to what appears to be an achilles heel injury. After hiting a weak grounder, he pulled up just feet from home plate, and had to be helped off the field.  The Cardinals will now face the Milwaukee Brewers, their midwestern rivals, whom they defeated in the 1982 World Series when the Brewers still were in the American League.  Matching up in that league's championship series are the Detroit Tigers, who have the best starter in either league, Justin Verlander, and whom the Cardinals faced and vanquished in the 2006 World Series (after having lost to them in the 1968 matchup), and the Texas Rangers, who have never won a World Series. I am hoping it will be the Cardinals vs. Detroit. (And please, DeWitt family, re-sign Albert Pujols!)


The 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand is drawing to a close.  In the first round of match play, the top teams emerging were host New Zealand (4-0-0, W-T-L) and France (2-0-2), which edged Tonga (2-0-2) in Pool A; England (4-0-0) and Argentina (3-0-1) in Pool B; Ireland (4-0-0) and Australia (3-0-1) in Pool C; and South Africa (4-0-0) and Wales (3-0-1) in Pool D. The United States did not finish last in its pool, C, but in the penultimate position, winning 1 match and losing 3.  Some of the play has  resulted in players being banned for a game or two: England's Delon Armitage suffered this penalty because of his tackle in the match against France.

Now at the quarterfinal stage, Wales today defeated Ireland 22-10, and France topped England 22-19, with two more pairings set for tomorrow, South Africa against Australia, and New Zealand against Argentina. The semifinals will pit Wales against France on October 15, and the winner of the second two matches on October 16, with the 3rd place match to occur on October 21, and the championship on October 23.  I tip New Zealand's All Blacks to win it all, but South Africa and Australia are also very strong contenders. Here a few more photos from more recent matches. Enjoy!

France's Dmitri Yachvili tackles England's Manu Tuilagi
Wales' Dan Lydiate attempts to lay out Ireland's Stephen Ferris
Ireland's squad huddle before their match with Wales
South Africa's coach Peter de Villiers at practice
Wallabies stretching during practice
Ma'a Nonu meeting with schoolchildren
Prop Juan Figalio and Argentinian teammates in scrum
Wales' Bradley Davies latches onto Fiji
fullback Iliesa Lomani Rakuka Keresoni
Fiji's team performs the Cibi in front of Wales before their match
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams slips past Canadians
Georgia's Georgi Chkaidze grapples with Argentina's Felipe Contepomi
Siaule Piutau passes the ball as France's Morgan Parra tackles him

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