Seventeen may be the defining number for the St. Louis Cardinals’ season. As in the number of consecutive matches they won during the record-breaking September period.
But another number tells a more dramatic story about their year: 1.3.
According to FanGraphs, the Cardinals’ game odds were at a season low of 1.3% on August 8. Even as late as September 9, the day before their winning streak began, those odds were at just 5%.
But seeing their chances of playing so low in October may be part of the reason why St. Louis are preparing for an unlikely NL Wild Card Game Wednesday night in Los Angeles with defending champions Dodgers rather than making off-season plans now.
“It was weird because we’re going to go one or two games back and we’re going to win and the Reds are going to lose and the post-season odds are going to drop,” long-time Cardinals player Adam Wainwright She said. “No one can understand that so we kind of pushed it a bit so thanks to all the folks at FanGraphs who gave us no respect so we could go in there with a chip on our shoulders.”
How did they do it
There is a clear relationship between St. Louis injuries and a drop in the rankings.
“The mystery is not a mystery to me,” Cardinals manager Mike Scheldt said recently. “We played really well in the first two months. We had a very good core in the beginning. Then we lost four key players in a short amount of time.
“Getting the spin to stabilize was key.”
May 31, the last day ace Jack Flaherty The Cardinal would take three and a half months mainly due to a slash injury, the Cardinals were 30-24 and only two games from a wild card spot in the NL.
From that day until the July 30 trade deadline, St. Louis went 22-27, dropping seven games again in the race for second place for the wild card with two teams to beat.
The Cardinals managed to keep themselves close while waiting to recover, eventually allowing them to capitalize on the injuries and poor play that derailed the San Diego Padres’ season that seemed destined for the NL Wild Card game most of the time. general.
“We were waiting that day that attack, defense, and strike joined together,” the Savior Andrew Miller He said last month. “Link.”
Together they came in the form of a historic 17-game winning streak in September, and tied for the fourth-longest NL game in the modern era (since 1900).
Their 17th win, their last in a row, came fittingly on the day they snatched the playoff berth, the 31st time the organization had reached a post-season.
But there was a major decision the Cardinals had to make long before their season reversed itself in September.
It turned out to be easy.
For most teams in the comma bubble, it’s an annual internal discussion. Should they add in the July trading deadline, and go for it, or should they roll out some expired contracts and retool for the future?
Cardinals are not the most difference.
“You always want September to count,” John Muziliak, the Cardinals’ chief of baseball operations, told ESPN.com. “When you look over the past 40 years with this organization, we’ve been able to get that.”
Here’s the bottom line: St. Louis rarely, if ever, drops off its list in these moments. But Mozeliak knew the odds like no one else, so he took a logical approach on July 30th rather than pushing his chips in full.
Instead, the Cardinals filled their holes with veterans who didn’t exactly light the stat sheet. John Lister Came from the citizens of Washington and JA hab From the Minnesota Twins. They brought 5.02 and 6.77 ERA with them.
“When we did those deals, we knew they weren’t going to be popular, so I didn’t want to stand up to the media and stand up and do the wave,” Moziliak said with a smile. “This could have been disingenuous. But the real thing is that we did these deals for a purpose. The goal was to help our rotation because we were bleeding out sometimes.”
The plan worked. Both Leicester and Hub have done better with the Cardinals than their old teams while walking rate has increased from 13.5% before July 30 to 7.9% since then.
“It was contagious to throw and hit good and the next player wants that too,” Lester explained. “The second wildcard helps. It gives you access. Without the second wildcard, we’re done.”
And without deadline decisions—though small at the time—the Cardinal would never return to racing.
“Did he overwhelm us with the trade deadline? No. But did you feel it would help us? Yes,” Mozeliak said.
And when it all came together, the Cardinals not only made it to the post-season, but rounded up one of the best September members in league history.
“That’s why I came here,” the third policeman Nolan Arenado She said. “I know they always care about winning. This organization knows how to win and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The streak didn’t start with a letter or even a moment that any player could remember as memorable. Team leaders, including Wainwright, Molina runs And Matt Carpenter, heralded “stay on track,” a phrase often used in professional sports.
“There was no spark,” Miller said. “It was good to see the confidence we had all year pay off.”
“What can be expected is the type of play,” added Moziliak. “Before the streak, we were playing baseball a lot better.”
In the days leading up to her debut, the Cardinals had already lost four in a row, including the first two of a four-game streak against the Dodgers at home.
“Many of us were talking, as we were playing the Dodgers, the teams ahead of us were playing with a softer schedule, so we knew the Dodgers were a major series,” Wainwright said. “We lost the first two games but winning the last two, it gave us a little magic to go to the next series.”
St. Louis beat Los Angeles 5-4 on September 8. The following day produced another one-round victory over the defending champion. Then Friday, September 10 will be the last time the Cardinals lose in the next 19 days, as they go from 3 games of the second wild card to 6 games.
Just like that, the race is over.
“You see a bunch of guys who figure out their roles and they’re clicking at the same time,” Wainwright said mid-line. “The timing of that is really important, too.”
They blew up teams, came from behind and won singles, and all the time they had a blast. Leicester thought he remembered winning a maximum of 10 consecutive matches at some point in his career, while Wainwright remembered an eight-game streak in 2006.
But nothing like that.
Arenado is in baseball heaven in its new home after spending the last two seasons in Colorado, much closer to the basement of NL West than the playoff race.
“The energy is great. It’s fun to come to the club. A lot of people are on the first bus now. There’s new energy. Sometimes in the season it’s like, ‘I have to go to the field,'” Arenado said before winning No. 14. Now it’s like, “Man, I can’t wait to get into the field.”
“I get anxious at 10:30 in the morning.”
With the win came some new superstition in the Cardinals club.
“We have two guys over there with some sacred underwear that needs to be replaced,” Wainwright joked during the line. “One person, in particular, has things hanging everywhere but he can’t change them.”
The Cardinals streak jumped into the post-season and confirmed what Mozeliak and Shildt talked about in private.
“Maybe we are both eternal optimists,” Mozlyak said. “We believed in this club.”
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
The streak is finally over, but the Cardinals’ season goes on for at least one more night. Beating the world champions could lead to unimaginable heights when they were long shots in the playoffs just a month ago.
“These stripes are very rare,” Arenado said. “It was fun but we can’t stop now.”
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