photo: St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals won Game 162 to finally clinch the Central Division – for the first time since 2015. The Atlanta Braves await in the Division Series. Our weekly history feature looks back at the last time the two teams played in the NLDS, in 2000.
St. Louis began the last week of the regular season with a three-game series at the Diamondbacks. The Cardinals took Game 1, 9-7.
The Cardinals offense scored nine runs on nine hits, including home runs by Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Harrison Bader. Edman hit a solo shot in the first inning and Goldschmidt blasted a two-run home run in the third. Molina thumped a two-run homer in the fifth, and finally, Bader smacked a solo shot in the eighth. Molina drove in four runs and was 2-for-4. Goldschmidt was also 2-for-4, while Edman and Marcell Ozuna were each 2-for-3.
Starter Adam Wainwright pitched five innings and gave up five runs on eight hits. The right hander struck out six and walked two. Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos each tossed a scoreless inning of relief. John Brebbia surrendered two runs in the eighth, before Carlos Martinez tossed a scoreless ninth to earn his 24th save. Wainwright earned his 14th win.
Ozuna made a fielding error.
The second game of the series was a grueling 19-inning marathon that ended in a loss for the Cardinals. The offense managed only two runs on 13 hits. Dexter Fowler hit a solo home run in the first inning, and Paul Goldschmidt smacked a solo shot in the 13th. Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina, and Harrison Bader were each 2-for-8.
Starter Jack Flaherty pitched seven scoreless, one hit innings while striking out 11 and walking two. Giovanny Gallegos added a scoreless eighth. Andrew Miller surrendered one run in the ninth to blow the save opportunity. Tyler Webb and Ryan Helsley combined to toss two scoreless innings. Genesis Cabrera pitched a scoreless 12th. John Gant surrendered one run to begin the 13th and was replaced by Junior Fernandez, who completed the 13th. Fernandez was charged with a blown save for allowing an inherited runner to score. Daniel Ponce de Leon followed Fernandez with three scoreless innings. Dominic Leone tossed the next two scoreless innings. John Brebbia surrendered the winning run in the 19th.
Molina stole his sixth base of the season.
The Cardinals fell to the Diamondbacks in the final game of the series, 9-7. Starter Michael Wacha lasted only 1 2/3 innings, leaving the game with a shoulder injury. Wacha gave up two runs on four hits while striking out three and walking two. Mike Mayers followed with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. John Gant pitched 1 2/3 scoreless. Genesis Cabrera surrendered three runs in the fifth. Junior Fernandez started the sixth and allowed four runs while recording only one out. Tyler Webb added 1 2/3 scoreless innings, but the damage was done. Dominic Leone tossed a scoreless eighth. Fernandez was tagged with the loss and a blown save.
St. Louis offense, minus most of the regular starters, scored seven runs on 10 hits. Randy Arozarena hit a sixth inning solo home run. Jose Martinez was 3-for-5 with two runs scored. His hits included a triple and a double. Tommy Edman was 2-for-4, as was Arozarena.
Arozarena stole his second base, and also had an outfield assist at third base. Edman and Matt Wieters committed fielding errors.
Thursday, September 26 – Off day
The Cardinals ended the regular season with a three-game weekend series at home against the Cubs. The team entered the series with a magic number of three to win the division. It didn’t come easy as the Cardinals lost the first game of the series, 8-2, despite the Cubs sitting many regulars. Fortunately for St. Louis, the surging Brewers lost the first game of their series in Denver.
The offense only scored two runs on nine hits. Matt Carpenter hit a solo home run in the fourth inning. Their second run came home in the seventh on a single by Yadier Molina. Tommy Edman went 3-for-4. Marcell Ozuna was 2-for-4, Molina was 2-for-5, and Carpenter was 2-for-3.
Starter Dakota Hudson pitched five scoreless innings, allowed two hits, fanned 10 and walked five. Giovanny Gallegos surrendered one run in the sixth. Andrew Miller and Ryan Helsley yielded seven runs between them in the seventh, while Genesis Cabrera got the last out of that inning. Mike Mayers tossed a scoreless eighth, and Junior Fernandez pitched a scoreless ninth.
Edman stole his 15th base of 2019 with St. Louis.
The Cardinals made taking the Division more difficult by losing the second game of the Cubs series on Saturday. Once again, the Brewers lost in Denver to keep the Cardinals Division lead intact.
St. Louis fell behind early and had to play catch up. The fifth inning began with a solo home run by Harrison Bader, his 12th of the season. Tommy Edman later hit a two-run triple and the Cardinals cut the lead to 6-3. The offense added two more in the seventh on an Edman single and a double play ball by Paul Goldschmidt. Paul DeJong hit a solo home run in the eighth, but rally fell short, as the Cubs had added two more in the top of the eighth. Edman was 2-for-4 with three RBI.
Starter Adam Wainwright had a tough go of it in his final start of the regular season. Wainwright pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up six runs on 12 hits, including a career-high four long balls. The right hander struck out three. Dominic Leone got the final two outs of the fifth before Tyler Webb followed with two scoreless innings. John Brebbia surrendered two runs to begin the eighth before Andrew Miller got the final two outs. Carlos Martinez tossed a scoreless ninth.
With the Division title on the line, and a Cardinals win or a Brewers loss needed in the final game of the regular season, the Cardinals came out with guns blazing and blanked the Cubs 9-0. The win came behind a stellar pitching performance by Jack Flaherty, who pitched seven scoreless, two-hit innings, striking out six and walking one. It took Flaherty only 69 pitches. Giovanny Gallegos and Carlos Martinez each tossed a scoreless inning to complete the shutout.
Home runs by Dexter Fowler, Matt Carpenter, and Paul Goldschmidt accounted for six of the nine runs scored. Fowler’s long ball was a two-run shot in the second inning. Carpenter blasted a three-run home run in the third, and Goldschmidt thumped a solo home run in the fourth. Fowler was 2-for-3, Goldschmidt was 3-for-4, and Marcell Ozuna was 2-for-5.
Goldschmidt stole his third base of the season.
The Big Picture
The Cardinals lost four in a row in the middle of the final week of the regular season, losing 2 of 3 to both the Diamondbacks and the Cubs. Despite the final sputtering, the Cardinals had built up a cushion that kept them in first place until the end, finally clinching the Division in Game 162 on Sunday.
Mike Shildt: "We don't have any team meetings, but we do have three more left: When we pop champagne after the Division Series, When we pop champagne after the Championship Series and when we When we pop champagne after the World Series." #TimeToFly pic.twitter.com/ofyjAxbH7g
— FOX Sports Midwest (@FSMidwest) September 29, 2019
The loss in the 19-inning marathon in Arizona on Tuesday didn’t help the situation. The Cardinals played the third game of the series with most of the starters on the bench due to the long game the night before. Though the B team gave it a valiant effort, the Diamondbacks prevailed in the end.
Bullpen issues and a poor start by Adam Wainwright also figured into the mix. Unlike most of the season, the offense was not the primary issue in the losses, it was pitching. Only the 19-inning game on Tuesday and the first game of the Cubs series were a result of low offensive output.
Tommy Edman continued to perform at the plate, with an OPS of 1.266 over the last seven days. Paul Goldschmidt improved to an .804 OPS for the week, not counting Sunday’s game. The rest of the starters had an OPS in the .700s or lower for the week, minus Sunday. Runs were scored with contributions across the board by different players on different days. Contributors with the long ball were Goldschmidt, Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong and Harrison Bader, each with multiple home runs during the week.
Defense remained the team’s strength and baserunning was also a plus. Pitching, especially by the bullpen, was the weakness.
The Cardinals will begin the National League Division Series against the Braves on Thursday. The first two games will be played in Atlanta, followed by two games, if necessary, in St. Louis. A potential Game 5 would be played in Atlanta.
NL Central Standings (Final)
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
There are no transactions to report.
- LHP Brett Cecil (carpal tunnel syndrome left wrist) continues on the 60 day injured list. Cecil had begun a throwing program but had a setback and will return in 2020.
- RHP Jordan Hicks (torn right UCL) underwent Tommy John surgery on June 26 and is out for the rest of the season.
- LHP Tony Cingrani (left shoulder labrum surgery) was acquired in a trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 31. Cingrani is out for the season and will become a free agent at the end of the season. Cingrani will likely never throw a pitch for the Cardinals.
- OF Lane Thomas (right wrist) was placed on the 10 day injured list retroactive to August 28 for a right wrist fracture suffered when he was hit by a pitch. Thomas was transferred to the 60 day injured list on September 1 to make room on the roster for C Joe Hudson. Thomas is out for the season.
- 2B Kolten Wong (left hamstring) injured his hamstring on September 19. A subsequent MRI revealed a Grade 2 strain of the hamstring. Wong may possibly return to the roster for the NLDS.
- Michael Wacha (right shoulder strain) is shutdown from throwing for several days. Wacha is unlikely for the NLDS but could return later in the postseason if the Cardinals advance.
The Cardinals finished the regular season on Sunday with a 9-0 win against the Cubs to take the NL Central Division title. St. Louis concluded the regular season with a record of 91-71 and a two-game division lead over Milwaukee.
They begin NLDS play against the Braves on Thursday, October 3 in Atlanta. Games 1 and 2 will be in Atlanta, before the clubs head to St. Louis to play Game 3 and possibly Game 4 on Sunday, October 6 and Monday, October 7. Should the series go to Game 5, it will be held in Atlanta on Wednesday, October 9.
If the Cardinals advance to the NLCS, the first game will be played on Friday, October 11 against the winner of the Wild Card (Brewers or Nationals) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.
The postseason schedule can be viewed here.
Initial game times have been announced.
Start times for Division Series games through Saturday, 10/5 have been announced. @TBSNetwork will televise all NLDS games, while @FS1 and @MLBNetwork will cover all ALDS games. @ESPNRadio will cover all Postseason games. #MLB #Postseason pic.twitter.com/DLRH7Jg4Kq
— MLB Communications (@MLB_PR) September 30, 2019
Blast from the Past
As the Cardinals head to Atlanta to begin the National League Division Series on Thursday, this week’s Blast from the Past looks at the last time the Cardinals played the Braves in a Division Series.
In 2000, the Cardinals won the Central Division and played the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The 95-win Cardinals had home field advantage, so Game 1 was played in St. Louis. The 2000 NLDS was mercifully short, as the Braves were no match for the Cardinals, losing to St. Louis in a three-game sweep.
Game 1, played on October 3, was a 7-5 Redbirds win. Rick Ankiel faced Greg Maddux on the mound. Neither starter pitched particularly well. In his game, and Game 2 of the NLCS, Ankiel lost control that ultimately led to the end of his pitching career. Ankiel threw five wild pitches in this game and had to be removed in the third inning. Maddux also did not last more than four innings for the Braves. Despite the issues with Ankiel, the Cardinals won the game, 7-5. Reliever Mike James was the winning pitcher. Jim Edmonds’ fourth-inning home run was the only long ball by either team.
Game 2 was played in St. Louis on October 5 with starters Darryl Kile for the Cardinals and Tom Glavine for the Braves. Kile pitched seven innings and gave up two runs on four hits while striking out six and walking two. Will Clark, Carlos Hernandez, and Mark McGwire all hit home runs for St. Louis. Clark’s home run was a three-run shot, while the other two were solo home runs. The Cardinals won the game 10-4.
The third and final game of the NLDS was played on October 7 in Atlanta, with Garrett Stephenson opposing Braves starter Kevin Millwood. St. Louis won 7-1 behind long balls by Fernando Vina and Jim Edmonds. Vina’s home run was a solo, while Edmonds hit a two-run shot. Stephenson pitched only 3 2/3 innings and gave up one run three hits. Reliever Britt Reames was the winning pitcher with 1 1/3 scoreless innings. Mike James, Matt Morris, and Dave Veres pitched the final four innings of relief.
In 2000, while both teams had identical regular-season records of 95-67, the Cardinals were clearly the dominant team.
The 2019 Cardinals enter the NLDS against the Braves with a 91-71 record, while the Braves are 97-65. Atlanta has the better record, but that doesn’t always result in the better team coming out on top. Still, a three-game sweep, as in 2000, is unlikely.
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