photo: Adam Wainwright and son (Jeff Curry/USA TODAY Sports)
The St. Louis Cardinals completed a historic win streak and clinched the second Wild Card berth while winning 90 games. Adam Wainwright’s 2022 contract was finalized and Mike Shannon said goodbye. Our history feature covers the team’s prior wild, Wild Card Games.
Monday, September 27 – Off day
The St. Louis Cardinals won their 17th straight game in a 6-2 defeat of the division-winning Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday in the first of a three-game set at Busch Stadium. It was Wainwright vs. Woodruff and Wainwright got the better of the Brewers right hander. This win clinched the second wild card spot for the Cardinals.
Wainwright pitched six innings and gave up two runs on seven hits, fanned four and walked two. It was a shorter outing than usual for the veteran starter, who still earned the win. Following Wainwright, three relievers each pitched a scoreless inning, T.J. McFarland, Luis Garcia, and Giovanny Gallegos.
The game was scoreless for the first three innings. The Brewers scored first on a two-run home run by Luis Urias off Wainwright in the fourth. The Cardinals quickly tied it in the home half of the inning with the first run scoring on a solo home run by Dylan Carlson. Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong followed Carlson with singles. Bader advanced to third on a fly out by Andrew Knizner. Wainwright came to the plate and executed a squeeze play that scored Bader for the tying run.
The Redbirds took the lead 4-2 in the fifth. Paul Goldschmidt doubled and scored on a single by Tyler O’Neill. O’Neill advanced to third on a fielding error and scored on a sac fly by Nolan Arenado. The Cardinals added to their lead with a solo home run by Jose Rondon in the sixth and another solo shot by Arenado in the seventh.
Goldschmidt and O’Neill were both 2-for-4. Arenado had two RBI.
The streak ended on Wednesday night against the Brewers as the Cardinals were shut out 4-0 at Busch Stadium. As the proverb says, “All good things must come to an end”.
The Cardinals faced Brewers starter Adrian Houser, who has given the Redbirds fits this season. Houser tossed a complete game shutout against them on September 4, by the same score, 4-0. This night was no different as the improved offense still could get no traction against this right hander. Only three Cardinals – Lars Nootbaar, Dylan Carlson, and Jose Rondon – were able to hit Houser. Carlson had the only extra base hit, a double.
Miles Mikolas took the loss after pitching 5 2/3 innings and giving up three runs on seven hits while fanning seven and walking one. It was a good start for Mikolas, but the offense did not support him. Andrew Miller surrendered one run in relief. Jack Flaherty and Genesis Cabrera each threw a scoreless inning.
On Thursday afternoon, the Cardinals bounced back from the shutout loss of the previous day to defeat the Brewers in the final game of the series and take two of three.
St. Louis got on the board first in the second inning. Nolan Arenado singled and Paul DeJong followed with a double to center field. Arenado scored on a sac fly by Jose Rondon. The Brewers came back to tie it 1-1 in the third off Cardinals starter J.A. Happ.
The Redbirds answered in the home half of the third with their second run to take a 2-1 lead on a solo home run by Dylan Carlson.
Milwaukee was not done, however, as they responded by scoring two runs in the fourth to go ahead 3-2. In the sixth, St. Louis regained the lead with a two-run inning on Carlson’s second long ball of the game, a two-run shot to right field.
Carlson was 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored, as the only Cardinal with multiple hits.
Starter Happ pitched 6 1/3 innings gave up three runs on nine hits and struck out seven to earn his 10th win of the season, fifth with St. Louis. Kodi Whitley, T.J. McFarland, and Luis Garcia each tossed a scoreless inning of relief.
The Cardinals began their final series of the 2021 season at home against the rival Chicago Cubs. St. Louis took the Game 1 by a 4-3 score on Friday night at Busch Stadium.
Dakota Hudson made his first MLB start of 2021 in his return from Tommy John surgery. The right hander pitched five scoreless innings, allowed three hits, fanned four and walked one. Genesis Cabrera relieved and surrendered two runs in 2/3 of an inning before leaving the game with a fingernail issue. T.J. McFarland yielded one more run but got the final out of the inning. McFarland was tagged with a blown save. Alex Reyes, Andrew Miller, and Giovanny Gallegos each pitched a scoreless inning. Gallegos got the win, his sixth of the season.
The Cardinals scored the first run of the game on a first-inning solo home run by Tyler O’Neill. O’Neill hit his second solo home run of the night in the fourth to increase St. Louis’ lead to 2-0.
The Cubs made a comeback in the sixth and scored three runs on a long ball by Trayce Thompson to take a 3-2 lead. The Cardinals answered in the home half of the sixth with one run to tie. O’Neill doubled to start the inning, then scored on a single by Lars Nootbaar.
The game remained tied 3-3 until the bottom of the ninth. Andrew Knizner drew a walk and advanced to second on a single by Edmundo Sosa. Knizner advanced to third on a ground out by Tommy Edman, then scored on a walk off single by Paul Goldschmidt.
It was a busy night on the base paths. Harrison Bader stole his ninth base of the season, Edman stole his 29th base and O’Neill purloined his 15th base. Nootbaar was caught stealing for the first time. Knizner was picked off first base.
In the field, O’Neill had an outfield assist at home.
The Cardinals were edged by the Cubs in the second game of the final series. The lead changed hands a couple of times before the Cubs rallied in the ninth to win.
St. Louis scored first on a solo home run by Harrison Bader in the first inning. Bader was hitting leadoff for the first time this season. Given that the Cardinals had clinched a spot in the postseason on Tuesday, the lineups over these final few games were shuffled to give key players a day off. This day was Tommy Edman’s turn to sit, so Bader was moved to the top of the lineup.
The 1-0 lead held until the fifth inning. The Cubs scored four runs on a grand slam by Trayce Thompson. The Cardinals answered in the home half of the fifth with a run on an RBI triple by Tyler O’Neill to cut Chicago’s lead to 4-2.
St. Louis mounted a comeback in the seventh. Bader reached base on an error and advanced to second on O’Neill’s single. Edman singled and Bader scored. Dylan Carlson singled to plate O’Neill and Edman, and the Cardinals took the 5-4 lead.
But in the ninth, the Cubs regained the lead on a two-run home run by Ian Happ. The Cardinals failed to score in the bottom of the ninth.
O’Neill was 2-for-4 with an RBI. Carlson drove in two. Yadier Molina and Edmundo Sosa returned to the lineup after missing multiple games with minor injuries.
Starter Jon Lester pitched five innings against his former team. The left hander gave up four runs on six hits, struck out four and walked four. Kwang-Hyun Kim tossed two scoreless innings in relief. Kodi Whitley pitched a scoreless eighth. Luis Garcia surrendered the two-run home run to Happ and took the loss. He was also charged with a blown save.
On the base paths, Edman stole his 30th base of the season.
St. Louis lost a rain shortened final game to the Cubs by the score of 3-2 at Busch Stadium. The action was delayed for rain twice, and the game was called after the second delay due to unplayable field conditions.
Jake Woodford got the start in this Game 162 of the 2021 season. Woodford pitched five innings and gave up three runs on six hits, struck out four and walked one. Jack Flaherty threw one scoreless inning of relief. T.J. McFarland followed with a scoreless frame. Alex Reyes was brought out to pitch the eighth but never threw a pitch as the rain came at that point and the game was eventually called. Woodford took the loss, his fourth of the season.
The Cubs scored one run in the first inning off Woodford. The Cardinals tied it in the home half of the first on a solo home run by Tommy Edman. The Redbirds took a 2-1 lead in the second on a Dylan Carlson walk, a Yadier Molina single, and a double play by Edmundo Sosa.
The Cardinals held the 2-1 lead until the fifth, when the Cubs went ahead with two runs off Woodford on a double and a single. The 3-2 lead held until the second rain delay after the seventh inning, and the Cubs became winners when the game was called.
The offense scored two runs on six hits. No Cardinal hitter had multiples. Edman’s long ball was the only extra base hit. Carlson, Molina, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, and Matt Carpenter each singled.
In the field, Edmundo Sosa made a fielding error.
The Big Picture
The Cardinals finished the final week of the season with a record of 3-3. They took 2 of 3 from the Brewers and lost 2 of 3 to the Cubs. The losses should be looked at in the context of the team having clinched the second Wild Card after the first game of the Brewers series, rendering the remaining five games essentially meaningless. Manager Mike Shildt rightly rested many of his regulars at times during these last five games in preparation for the postseason.
The Cardinals will play the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Wild Card Game on Wednesday, October 6 in Los Angeles. Adam Wainwright will get the start against Max Scherzer for the Dodgers. Should the Cardinals win this game they will go on to play the West Division champion San Francisco Giants in the Division Series.
Scherzer will be a tough opponent for St. Louis’ offense. The Cardinals have faced him twice this year, once each with the Nationals and the Dodgers. They lost both times. Scherzer has been essentially unhittable all season, though he has shown some wear recently, having given up 10 earned runs over his last two starts. Whether this trend will continue remains to be seen, but perhaps there is a chink in the armor the Cardinals offense can exploit.
The offense must continue to score runs at the same pace as they have over the last several weeks. Because this is a one and done game, it must be an all-out effort. The Dodgers offense is formidable, though they just lost one of their most productive hitters, Max Muncy, with an injury in the last game of the season. There are plenty of other good hitters in the lineup, however, such as the Turners, Trea and Justin, as well as Corey Seager.
If Wainwright can pitch one of his best games, and the offense can stay hot, the Cardinals have a chance.
In the last week of the season, the best offensive performers were Dylan Carlson (1.500 OPS) and Tyler O’Neill (1.397 OPS). Nolan Arenado set a new team record for third basemen with his 105th RBI, while Paul Goldschmidt finished one short of 100 driven in and six points short of a .300 average for the season.
Given that the team clinched early and was not in max effort mode for five of the last six games, the performances for the week are arguably not indicative of what the team can do against the Dodgers. Perhaps the offense of the 17-game winning streak will be present for the game on October 6.
Final NL Central Standings
Cardinals honor retiring Mike Shannon
Longtime voice of the Cardinals Mike Shannon was honored in a pre-game ceremony on Sunday before the final game of the season. Shannon is retiring, ending a 50-year span of radio broadcasting of Cardinals games by the former St. Louis third baseman-outfielder.
The ceremony included speeches from friends, colleagues, and team owner Bill DeWitt Jr. Shannon also made a short, tearful speech to fans before taking a spin in a golf cart around the field, driven by his wife.
The KMOX broadcast booth was renamed the Shannon Broadcast booth in the broadcaster’s honor. It was announced that Shannon paid for four seats to be reserved and donated to fans throughout next season.
If the Cardinals advance to the Division Series, Shannon may broadcast the home games, otherwise Sunday was his final call. Shannon is one of only 14 broadcasters in baseball history to have done so for at least 50 years.
Should Sunday indeed be his time in the booth, the memories will linger for Cardinals fans who have enjoyed Shannon’s quirky remarks and his signature home run call, “Get up, get up baby!”
We will miss you, Mike.
Wainwright’s 2020 contract official
Formalizing a deal that both parties had already said they would make happen, the Cardinals announced that 40-year-old Adam Wainwright has agreed to terms on a one-year contract for 2022.
The AP reports the deal guarantees the pitcher $17.5 million and provides him no-trade protection. This is more than a 100% increase from Wainwright’s $8 million 2021 salary and reflects his workhorse 206 1/3 innings with a stellar 3.05 ERA this season.
The 2022 season is now set to be a final goodbye for Wainwright and long-term batterymate Yadier Molina. The two have not finalized their future plans, but odds are high they will hang up their cleats in 12 months as career Cardinals.
Trade and Acquisition Rumors
There are no trade or acquisition rumors to report.
There are no transactions to report.
- RHP Jordan Hicks (right elbow inflammation) remains on the 60-day injured list. Hicks has made two rehab assignments, with the last one occurring on September 29 at Memphis as he pitched one scoreless inning. The right hander was the starter for the final Memphis Redbirds game on Sunday, yielding two runs in two innings. Further, Hicks will be one of several players sent to the Arizona Fall League, which begins on October 13. The right hander will not pitch for the Cardinals in 2021 but is on track to return for 2022.
- 2B Max Moroff (left shoulder subluxation) remains on the 60-day injured list after suffering a shoulder injury in a batting practice session. Moroff had surgery on the shoulder and is out for the rest of the season.
- RHP Carlos Martinez (right thumb ligament sprain) had surgery on July 16 to repair his thumb ligament and is out for the season. Martinez is on the final year of his contract, and though the team holds options for 2022 and 2023, they are not expected to pick them up.
- LHP Wade LeBlanc (left elbow pain) remains on the 10-day injured list. The left hander is set to undergo a procedure on his left elbow, making a return this season impossible. Le Blanc will be a free agent at season’s end. The Cardinals may offer Le Blanc a minor league deal to return in 2022 if he does not sign a major league deal elsewhere.
- RHP Ryan Helsley (right elbow stress reaction), was placed on the 60-day injured list on September 1. The move signaled an end to Helsley’s season.
- RHP Junior Fernandez (right lat strain) was transferred to the 60-day injured list on September 12. Scans revealed a Grade 2 lat strain and the right hander’s season is over.
- RHP Justin Miller (right elbow strain) was placed on the 10-day injured list on September 25. This is Miller’s second elbow issue in the second half of the season. Miller will not be shut down from throwing but will rest in an effort to be ready for the postseason.
- SS Edmundo Sosa (right wrist) was held out from the lineup for about a week but returned to the lineup to start at 2B in Saturday’s game against the Cubs.
- C Yadier Molina (shoulder) returned to the lineup in Saturday’s game against the Cubs.
- LHP Genesis Cabrera (left middle fingernail) left Friday’s game against the Cubs with a recurring fingernail issue. The left hander will have an artificial nail placed on the finger and is expected to be available to pitch in the postseason.
The Cardinals played their final regular season game on Sunday. St. Louis will travel to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card game on Wednesday, October 6. Advancing to face San Francisco in the Division Series will go to the Wild Card winner.
The complete postseason schedule can be found here.
Blast from the Past
The Cardinals clinched the second wild card spot with a win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night. It was the last of the 17-game winning streak that began on September 11 with a 6-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. This week’s Blast from the Past recalls the history of the MLB Wild Card and recounts the three instances since the Wild Card’s inception that the Cardinals held an NL Wild Card berth.
The Wild Card was instituted by Major League Baseball in 1994 but was not actually used that year because a labor strike ended the season early and the playoffs were cancelled. The Wild Card was added when each league was expanded from two divisions per league to three. Because there were only three Division winners, the Wild Card was devised to even the number to four playoff teams in each league. The 1994 season was also when the National League Division Series (NLDS) was added on a permanent basis, having been used once only in 1981 due to the labor strike that year. The Wild Card team in each league was the non-division winner with the best overall record for the season.
The first Wild Card teams were the 1995 Colorado Rockies in the NL and the New York Yankees in the AL. Both lost in the NLDS. The Rockies have been the Wild Card five times, the most of any NL team. In the AL, the Yankees and the Red Sox are tied with eight wild card berths each, including when the two face off this Tuesday.
After the 2011 season, Major League Baseball added a second Wild Card per league and instituted the Wild Card game between each league’s the two Wild Card selections. The first such Wild Card Game were in 2012 and the NL game was played by the Cardinals and the Braves. St. Louis has been the NL Wild Card three times – in 2011, 2012, and now in 2021.
In 2011, the Cardinals became the winner of the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season. An entire book could probably be written about St. Louis’ 2011 postseason run. Fans of the Cardinals may know that the team was 10.5 games back of the Wild Card-leading Atlanta Braves on August 25 and went on an historic September run to clinch on September 28, 2011. They did so though the combination of beating the Houston Astros on that last day and being helped by the Phillies defeating the Braves. That year the Cardinals became one of only five NL Wild Card teams to go on to win the World Series. The others are Miami in 1997 and 2003, San Francisco in 2014 and Washington in 2019.
The very next season, St. Louis was again an NL Wild Card selection. 2012 was the first year of two Wild Cards in each league. The Cardinals and Atlanta Braves met for the first Wild Card game on October 5, 2012, at Turner Field in Atlanta. It was memorable for a controversial infield fly rule call. In the eighth inning, with the Cardinals leading 6-3, Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons hit a fly ball into short left field. The ball dropped between Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma and left fielder Matt Holliday. Umpire Sam Holbrook called the infield fly rule, which resulted in Simmons being automatically out. Had he not been called out via the rule, the bases would have been loaded with only one out.
Braves fans took umbrage with the call and began littering the field with trash. The game was delayed for 20 minutes. A message over the public address system telling fans that a forfeit was imminent was the only reason the game finally continued. The Cardinals prevailed 6-3.
The Cardinals have now clinched their third Wild Card berth and are headed to Los Angeles on Wednesday to play in their second Wild Card game. This historic run of 17 straight wins that led to this moment is reminiscent of the September run of the Cardinals in 2011, which ended in a World Series title. If the stars are aligned and the fates are with St. Louis, perhaps the ending will be the same as in 2011.
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