With a magic number of one, it’s always best to take care of matters yourself and win to clinch. That’s exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals did, easily, in beating the Chicago Cubs 7-0 to become 2013 National League Central champions.
It’s the first time since 2009 that the Cardinals are division champs, and last night’s win was number 95 on the season (to give them a nice 95-65 record after 160 games). Last time the Cards won 95 games? Back in 2005, when they won 100.
Yes, we are spoiled by our team with their ongoing success as they’ll be playing in October for the 10th time since 2000. We also are spoiled by watching some terrific baseball from them this month alone — they’re now 17-8 in September.
One of last night’s stars was someone who’s surprisingly shined brightly recently: Lance Lynn. He pitched six innings and struck out nine, including six straight Cubs, with no walks and only four hits. True, they are the last-place Cubs, but Wolf Pup now has two consecutive wins and a 2.12 ERA this month. The only Cards starter with a better one? Michael Wacha. And Lance will finish with an ERA under four for the season at 3.97. (It was 4.37 on Sept. 5.)
Contributing on offense last night were the (thankfully) usual suspects. All three Matts — surprise! — had hits, with Holliday launching his 21st home run for the game’s final run. Yadier Molina did what Yadi seemingly always does too: came up big with a two-RBI double to get the scoring started in the first inning. Jon Jay — who’s hitting .391 in the past week — had an RBI single, plus a fantastic diving catch. And, hey, David Freese — good to see your bat getting hot with a homer!
So, with two regular season games left, it’s a more relaxing time than what we had to experience in late September the past two years. It’s a nice place to be, though — going back to the postseason once more, and with home field advantage for the division series. (Opponent, however, still to be determined, pending whether the Cards or Braves finish with the best record in the National League.)
Here’s a look at some of the national coverage on the Cards success:
- USA Today: Cardinal rule: St. Louis wins NL Central
- CBS Sports: Another season, another playoff berth for gritty Cardinals (Scott Miller has a couple of facts wrong, though it would be nice if Yadi really had finished second in the MVP race last year!)
- ESPN: Cards ride clutch hitting to NL Central title
- Yahoo: Cardinals clinch first NL Central title since 2009, still looking for NL’s best record
And, since photos are always great, here’s a link to the gallery from last night from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Today’s game has been moved up to 3:15 p.m., due to a not-good weather forecast for St. Louis. Adam Wainwright goes for the Cardinals, sticking to his regular rest schedule, while old buddy Edwin Jackson goes for the Cubs.
Christine Coleman is the lead writer for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.