It’s September. Here come the Cardinals!
Yes, September has become the St. Louis Cardinals month in recent years. That, of course, has led them right into October baseball for the past three seasons. And, at this stage, it would take something beyond extraordinary for that streak to not reach four straight years — the magic number for playing in the postseason is now just one. [UPDATE: Thanks to the Pirates beating the Brewers this afternoon 1-0, the Cards are officially in!]
Last night’s 8-4 Cardinals victory over the Reds was their 14th win this month, to go with just five losses. Speaking of five, that’s the magic number for clinching the NL Central — and it’s the magic number that means something, since it guarantees playing in the division series. Only seven games remain in September, yet the Cards still have just a 3 1/2 game lead over the second-place Pirates. They’ve had a good September as well, going 12-6 thus far, which is why the Cards’ magic number isn’t decreasing as quickly as it could.
Still, this month has been the Cardinals’ time to shine going back to the “September to remember” in 2011.
That year they were 18-8 and, obviously, completed the journey back from 10 1/2 down in the wild card standings to the postseason (thanks to the Braves’ collapse also). In 2012, the Cards were 15-12 (as well as 2-1 in the October regular season games, since it was a later-starting schedule that season) to reach — and win — the first-ever wild card playoff game. Last season, the Cardinals went 19-8 on their way to 97 wins, their first NL Central title since 2009 and the best record in the National League.
The last time the Cards had a losing record this month was in 2010, when they went 14-15 and did not make the postseason.
This September, it’s the pitching that’s leading the way to victories. The team ERA for the month is 2.33, which is second-best in MLB to the Pirates 2.30. And looking at some of the ERAs for the Cardinals in September will explain that number. Randy Choate, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Justin Masterson are all at 0.00 in four, nine, 10 and two appearances respectively. (Martinez has 14 strikeouts in 11 2/3 September innings.) Shelby Miller has a 0.69 ERA, Adam Wainwright 1.69 and Lance Lynn 2.00, all in four starts. Wainwright has a 4-0 record.
While the offense isn’t necessarily as stellar as the pitching — the team is hitting .252/.325/.365 for the month, all about in the middle of the NL — some individuals are certainly doing quite well. Randal Grichuk is hitting .385 for the month, with two homers in the past two games. Oscar Taveras is hitting .355, Peter Bourjos .314 and Matt Holliday .313 with three homers and nine RBI.
Even the run differential has gotten back in line, with the Cardinals pitchers allowing 50 runs this month while the offense has scored 74. Overall, it’s back on the positive side too: 595 runs scored for the season, with 578 allowed.
It’s definitely been an enjoyable month to watch, and a huge improvement over the struggles and underachievement from April through August.
The final regular season home game for the Cardinals is tonight at 7:05 p.m. on ESPN. Yet we know it’s not the end of Cardinals baseball for 2014. September success will mean October for the Cardinals once again.