September is the month that our local amusement parks start close, ending the thrills and excitement that the numerous roller coasters provide. No need to worry though because September also brings the thrills and excitement provided by the concurrence of several major sports teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Rams, Blues and Missouri Tigers football. September brings then end of the baseball regular season, gives us the anticipation of the Blues run, and has provided us with a month worth of football for the Rams and Tigers.
St. Louis fans are once again lucky enough to have another month of baseball to be played. The Cardinals clinched a playoff berth this past weekend for the fourth consecutive year, a first in the storied franchise’s history. Yes the playoff format has changed but the consistency to make the playoffs four straight years, and 11 times since 2000, is impressive no matter what. So Cardinal fans, before worrying about the pitching rotation for October please take a moment to relish that fact. 11 times in 14 years the Cardinals have been in the postseason……wow.
The Cardinals are faltering a little down the stretch, seeing the offense go back to the form that we saw for the majority of the season, scoring more than four runs just once in the last seven games. This following a stretch when it looked like they were finally clicking, scoring more than four runs in 11 of 15 games. But we all know that the playoffs comes down to the pitching staff and whose bats come up with the timeliest hits. With the pitchers in the Cardinals rotation anything can happen. Adam Wainwright can go toe to toe with any pitcher in the league and Lance Lynn is the picture of consistency this year. Will Shelby Miller, who seems to have figured out how to pitch and not just throw, be unleashed this fall rather than hidden in the bullpen like last year? John Lackey has been there and done that and let’s not forget last fall’s hero Michael Wacha working his way back to the fold. Once again this will come down to the Cardinals bats and how they fare. Can the base to base, singles attack approach come through with big hits. If history has taught us anything at all it is that the unexpected can happen in October baseball, whether it is a home town boy sparking a comeback for the ages or a squirrel capturing the city’s imagination.
This weekend was also the debut of the 2014 St. Louis Blues. I find myself at odds this year with the Blues. I am a diehard Blues fan and excited for the upcoming season. But I also feel like I have been here done that with them. Everyone in the NHL knows the Blues have the talent to compete for the President’s Trophy. In the last few years they have gone from a team rebuilding, to a team ready to make the next move, to battling for the top spot in the Western Conference. The talent is there, the playoff experience is now there, but will the talent and experience finally come together and take them there, as in the Stanly Cup chase. We have seen them pile up the regular season numbers it is now time for them to make a run in the playoffs. And that is why I am at odds. Excited for the season but I know that none of the regular season accolades will mean much unless they can get past that damned second round.
This month also gave us extended looks at our local football teams. The Rams are 1-2 and have played three completely different games in the first three weeks. From being blown out by the Vikings to winning against the Bucs in a fashion that was expected and most recently getting up 21 points at home before falling to the Cowboys. Last month fans were giddy over the season, then Sam Bradford tore his knee up again. Now the Rams are led by a fiery young quarterback who is teamed with the development of Brian Quick the Rams have some ups. But the lack of pass rush from a defense that was supposed to challenge for the NFL record for sacks and inconsistency in the run game will drop your hopes quicker than the Screaming Eagle at Six Flags. The Rams are their own roller coaster ride from quarter to quarter and game to game.
Not to be outdone the Missouri Tigers wanted in on the roller coaster excitement. After opening the season with three wins in increasing fashion the Tigers fell at home to a team that they were expected to put up points with ease against. Now fans who saw the showdown against Georgia as a possible winner take all for the SEC East have returned to saying “same ol’ Tigers”. The good news is that the Tigers still have a clean conference schedule. So while they will need to tighten some things up like their offensive line and linebackers against the run, the Tigers can still make some SEC noise so don’t get out of line for the ride.
So as the leaves change from green to wonderful red and orange colors, we say good bye to the boys of summer and hello to the men of October. The daydreams of summer, sun-filled days are replaced with chilly autumn weekends filled with 11 men battling on the field as one. The smell of barbeque turns to the smell of freshly cut ice. So settle in, get cozy, and prepare for yet another roller coaster ride of emotions as the sports year is in full swing.