In 2000, the Cardinals won the Central Division and was paired against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. Cardinals manger, Tony LaRussa made a surprising move, opting to start rookie pitching sensation, Rick Ankiel in Game 1 of that series, rather than established starter Daryl Kile. In the 3rd inning, millions of Cardinal fans watched Ankiel implode on the mound. Ball after ball sailed over the catcher to the backstop as suddenly Rick Ankiel could no longer find the strikezone. He ended up walking 4 guys, throwing several wild pitches, allowing 4 runs to score.
Ankiel and Cardinal fans alike called it a fluke. And because the Redbirds advanced to the NLCS, it seemed like nothing more than an answer to future trivia questions. But in the NLCS, Ankiel again could not find the strikezone against the New York Mets. He was booted after only 20 pitches when 20% of his pitches again found their way to the backstop.
This time the Cardinals would not advance, as the Mets went on to take the series and advance to the World Series.
Flash forward to 2010.
This time Ankiel is a name known to all baseball fans. But he’s no longer known as a hard throwing kid in his rookie season, sporting highlighted blonde hair. He’s a griseled veteran, who has transformed himself into an outfielder with an elite arm. He worked himself back to the Majors, as a potential offensive threat as well. He did well with the Cardinals until there was no room for him any longer. He spent some of the season, playing with the going-nowhere Kansas City Royals before being traded to Atlanta.
How interesting it is that Rick is back in the postseason, playing for the very team that he first fell apart against. But this time he has stepped up to the challenge. Not only has he been successful, he has been the hero. In game 2, Ankiel hit the game-winning home run in the 11th inning.