One is an important number for the St. Louis Cardinals these days, and it has nothing to do with Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
It’s the magic number for the Cardinals to clinch the National League Central title outright.
It’s the number of runs allowed by Shelby Miller in six innings during yesterday’s 4-1 sweep of the Washington Nationals.
It’s the total number of hits allowed in the three innings after that, from four relievers.
And one, or less, is the total years of experience from the five Cardinals who pitched yesterday — rookies all. (Of course, “one” and “rookie” also means Michael Wacha’s grand total of hits on Tuesday night.)
One is not a lonely number at all — sorry, Three Dog Night. It’s a great number.
And great can be a word to describe this September for the Cardinals too, as their record is now 18-8.
Remember looking at the schedule a couple weeks ago and being a little worried about this series against the Nats, especially since they were still trying to make a wild card charge? Instead, the Cards won all three — and swept them in Washington back in April.
Plus, thanks to old pal Kyle Lohse’s two-hit shutout of the Braves last night, the Cardinals right now have the best record in the National League (although you probably heard something else about that Braves-Brewers game instead). If the Cards finish with the best record, that makes for a very intriguing NLDS matchup: facing either the Pirates or the Reds. (And the Dodgers-Braves series would also be quite interesting.)
But that’s for later. Back to yesterday’s game, as mentioned, Shelby Miller gave up just one run to the Nationals and it came in a bit of a rough first inning — two walks and a Bryce Harper single. After that, Shelby settled in and only allowed three more hits in three separate innings. He walked one more, to start the seventh, and had four strikeouts.
Seth Maness relieved Shelby with Adam LaRoche on base and — shock of all shocks — got Wilson Ramos to ground into a double play. (Actually, it would have been more shocking if Maness did not get a double play, right?)
The top of the eighth inning brought Kevin Siegrist to the mound, who gave up the lone hit by the relievers after first getting a fly out to right field. Carlos Martinez was next, who ended the inning a nice K of Jayson Werth.
The ninth brought in Trevor Rosenthal — our new closer? For the third straight game, he got the save — and is looking mighty good in that ninth inning.
Then there was the offense — and more rookie contributions, courtesy of Matt Adams. Of the Cardinals six total hits for the day, Big Nickname had two of them — including, not surprisingly, a home run. It’s his eighth of the month, which keeps him third in the majors in September homers behind Ryan Zimmerman with 11 and Hunter Pence with nine.
The other two Matts also continued their productive months — Carpenter drove in Daniel Descalso for the Cards first run on a groundout. And Holliday was back in the lineup, scoring a run in the fourth after being hit by a pitch. Yadier Molina drove him in, along with Adams.
Jon Jay had two hits yesterday also, while Descalso had one.
So, with just three regular season games remaining, things are looking pretty well for the Cardinals. Of course, given that’s it’s baseball, we can’t say these three with the guaranteed-to-finish-in-last-place Cubs will be easy. Before yesterday’s action, would you have predicted the Cubs would beat Francisco Liriano and the Mets would beat Mat Latos? Or even that Lohse would shutout the Braves on two hits?
But it should be a fun weekend, with the scoreboard watching now focused on the Braves and Phillies (hmmm, deja vu to two years ago, anyone?) and, of course, still the Pirates and Reds.
Plus there’s the possibility of a clinching tomorrow night with that magic number now one …
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email email@example.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.