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Cards take another 'happy flight' back home

Cards take another 'happy flight' back home

Cards take another 'happy flight' back home
MILWAUKEE -- The hip-hop on the sound system in the Cardinals' clubhouse was turned down to a background murmur Monday night. It was as if it was no big deal to go to Miller Park -- where it seems the Brewers never lose -- and pound out a 12-3 victory in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.

But what's a magical run like the one the Cardinals have been on for more than a month without a catch phrase? Pitcher Chris Carpenter and inactive utility man Skip Schumaker came through with heavily accented shouts of "Happy flight!"

It's how the Cardinals commemorate victories on getaway day -- the last contests before leaving home or leaving a road city. Happy flights are by no means old hat, but they are habit. The Cardinals have won an eye-popping 15 straight getaway games. Considering that those games often swung series or made the difference in the complexion of homestands or road trips, no wonder the Cards are where they are.

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The last time they went to an airport with long faces was after dropping a 6-3 decision at home to the Cubs on July 31.

"It's a neat kind of reminder: Let's finish off whatever it is, whether we're finishing off a game at home or on the road," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "We've won games on days we weren't traveling.

"But it's just you've got these grown men and they're like ... I don't even think fraternity, they're too old. They're like summer campers or teenagers, or maybe pre-teens. They're just like kids. And it's enjoyable to listen to 'happy flight' things. Our fans were yelling when we got in the dugout, 'Have a happy flight.' It's silly, but why not?"

Actually, the Cards did more celebrating on the field than off. There was plenty to celebrate Monday.

Albert Pujols homered and drove in five runs, and Jon Jay had three hits and scored three times. The Cards finished with 17 hits, and they went 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position. Pujols gazed at his long homer to left off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum in the first inning. As the hits kept coming, Pujols and Yadier Molina broke into gestures that both insisted were not designed to make fun of the Brewers' "beast mode" demonstrations used when they're on a roll.

"I'm in every game," Pujols said in answering a question about being demonstrative Monday. "I don't take this game for granted. [Sunday] was a tough loss."

Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman said, "You don't see it too often in the postseason where you get the blowout game one way or the other. Certainly, it was a night off for everybody in terms of gray hair, and that sort of thing."

In the final innings, the biggest demonstration from the crowd at Miller Park -- boisterous at the beginning of the contest -- came in the eighth, when Pujols finally grounded out after the home run and three straight doubles.

So Monday night's late flight to St. Louis was a happy one, but not a giddy one.

The phrase was inspired by Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal, but he has been around long enough to understand that the ultimate happy flight would be taking to the air on the wings of a World Series championship. No one would know the silly little phrase if the Cardinals didn't win a lot of games when they aren't headed to the airport.

"It's a very happy flight for us," Furcal said. "We say, 'Happy flight,' but it doesn't mean anything. We go to the field and try to win every game."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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