Tuesday’s Game Report: Cardinals win 17th in a row, clinch playoff spot
By Rob Rains, STLSportsPage.com
And on the 17th night, the Cardinals celebrated.
Less than three weeks after they had very small statistical odds of earning a spot in this year’s postseason, the Cardinals got there on Tuesday night with a 6-2 win over the Brewers at Busch Stadium.
Extending their franchise record to 17 consecutive wins, the Cardinals eliminated the Phillies and Reds in the battle for the second wildcard spot and earned a date with either the Dodgers or Giants in the one-game playoff on Oct. 6 in California, with the winner of that game advancing to the Division Series.
It’s the longest winning streak by a team in the National League since the Cubs won 21 games in a row in September of 1935. The Cardinals have not lost a game since Sept. 10.
The Cardinals fell behind the Brewers 2-0 in the fourth inning only to tie the game in the bottom of the inning. They took the lead in the fifth, added home runs in the sixth and seventh to pad the lead and got the party started two innings later.
“We’ve got a 17-game winning streak and there’s no reason to stop now,” said Adam Wainwright, who earned his 17th win of the season in the clincher. “We’ve got some games to win. We’re planning on four more of these. Our guys have got a taste of it. It never gets old.
“Fangraphs had us at like a negative 400 chance of making the playoffs and we just proved everybody wrong. We’re going to try to keep doing that.”
Mike Shildt has now guided the Cardinals into the postseason in each of his first three full seasons as the team’s manager, but the path there was far different this season.
“People say how can you stay optimistic about this team and really it’s not blind optimism,” Shildt said. “I’m an optimist by nature, I think they live longer, but it’s an easier team to believe in and have that faith in when I have the privilege of being able to see behind the scenes the dedication that takes place every day.
“Champions are made by believing and putting forth the work, even if you’re not rewarded. … To stay with it, and keep believing and have that heart, that takes toughness and that takes belief and this is what this team has, toughness and belief.”
Nolan Arenado reached the playoffs in his first season as a Cardinal, exactly what he was hoping for when he was traded to St. Louis in February.
“To be able to go to the playoffs is what it’s all about and I’m just thankful to be a part of this team,” Arenado said. “This is why I’m here. I’ve never been part of a group that just keeps coming. It’s been unbelievable.
“We’ve lost some bad games this year, games that would set other teams off and you think would be the end of it. But we just keep fighting.”
Harrison Bader, one of the hottest Cardinals during the streak, compared earning the chance to play in the postseason to eating the first piece of a really good steak.
“You have one bite of it and you are sitting in front of it and you want to just keep eating it,” he said. “That’s exactly how we’re doing it. We’re staying hungry and we want to keep eating.”
Here is how Tuesday night’s game broke down:
At the plate: After the Cardinals fell behind, Dylan Carlson lined the second pitch in the bottom of the fourth into the home bullpen for his 16th homer of the season. Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong followed with singles and after Bader advanced to third on Andrew Knizner’s fly to center, he scored the tying run on Wainwright’s safety squeeze bunt … Paul Goldschmidt led off the fifth with a double and he scored the go-ahead run when Avilsail Garcia misplayed a single by Tyler O’Neill in right. O’Neill got to third on the play and scored on Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly … Jose Rondon’s third homer of the year, all coming as a pinch-hitter, increased the lead to 5-2 in the sixth before Arenado capped the scoring with his 34th homer of the year in the seventh.
On the mound: Both of the Brewers’ runs off Wainwright came on a home run by Luis Urias in the fourth. Wainwright pitched six innings, scattering seven hits, to raise his record to 17-6 … T.J. McFarland worked around a leadoff walk in the seventh with a double play; Luis Garcia allowed only a one-out walk in the eighth and Giovanny Gallegos allowed a leadoff single in the ninth before getting three fly outs, securing the postseason berth when Omar Narvaez flew out to center to end the game.
Key stat: The three homers gave the Cardinals 50 homers this month, the second highest total for any calendar month in franchise history. The record is 55 homers hit in April of 2000.
Worth noting: With Yadier Molina a late scratch from the starting lineup because of stiffness in his right shoulder, this was only the second time this season Wainwright has thrown to Knizner in a game. The two worked together for 5 2/3 innings against the Mets on May 3, with Wainwright allowing five runs … One of the eight players selected by the Cardinals to go to the Arizona Fall League is outfielder Lars Nootbaar, who potentially still could be playing in St. Louis when that league begins on Oct. 13. Jordan Hicks also has been assigned to the league along with Nolan Gorman, Brandon Donovan, Juan Yepez and pitchers Zack Thompson, Andre Pallante and Jake Walsh. The Cardinals representatives will be playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs … Edmundo Sosa tested his sore right wrist before the game but still has not swung a bat, likely indicating that he will still be sidelined for a few more days as he recovers from being hit by a pitch last Friday … The Cardinals are now 19-1 in their last 20 games and 21-6 in September with two games left in the month. Their total of 154 runs scored is their most in September since scoring 156 in 1951.
Looking ahead: Miles Mikolas will get the start on Wednesday night in the second game of the series.
Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains
Photo by AP courtesy of KSDK Sports