(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Cardinal Nation, you can break out the champagne!
The St. Louis Cardinals are the 2015 National League Central Division Champions.
And while the season is still not over, and the biggest prize of them all is still priority number one, winning the division is essentially the culmination of so much that happened to this team throughout the season. From the April injury to ace Adam Wainwright, to the multitude of injuries throughout the year that were suffered by so many players, such as Jordan Walden, Jon Jay, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, and most recently, Yadier Molina.
Suddenly, the Cardinals began tapping into their deep farm system earlier than anticipated, calling up rookies Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Tommy Pham. They delivered when it came their time to shine.
Despite two bitter division rivals not letting up at all on their quest for the division crown, the Cardinals maintained their ground, and when they needed to, came through in the clutch.
On Wednesday it was a doubleheader between St. Louis and Pittsburgh, making up for game two, rained out the night before. The pitching match-up for game one of the doubleheader was Michael Wacha (17-6, 3.15 ERA) and Gerrit Cole (18-8, 2.60 ERA).
Neil Walker put the Pirates on the board first with a solo home run to make it 1-0 Pittsburgh. Despite that, it was a pitching duel between Wacha and Cole, who is a National League Cy Young Award candidate, through the first few innings.
However, that all changed in the bottom of the fourth. With the game tied 1-1 and the bases loaded, Francisco Cervelli hit a towering grand slam to break the game wide open for Pittsburgh, making it 5-1. Though, it didn’t stop there. Gregory Polanco scored Jordy Mercer on a double, to give Pittsburgh a 6-1 lead. A solo home run by Matt Carpenter cut the deficit to 6-2, but in wouldn’t be enough as the Pirates had all the momentum winning 8-2.
The night cap was a different story.
The match-up on the mound featured St. Louis lefty Tyler Lyons (2-1, 3.96 ERA) against Pittsburgh’s Charlie Morton (9-8, 4.54).
Carpenter got the offense going, leading off the game with a triple. Two at-bats later, Jhonny Peralta scored Carpenter after hitting into a double play. Then a double by Adams scored Jason Heyward to give the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead.
The biggest moment of the game occurred in the top of the third inning. With Carpenter, Jay, and Peralta all on base, nobody out and Heyward at the plate, the young right fielder launched a grand slam into right center, giving the Cardinals a 6-0 lead.
Lyons pitched as great a performance as one could have. He held the Pirates to just four hits over the course of seven innings and despite having cushion for mistakes he locked down and pitched lights out. His final line of the game was: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 Ks.
It was definitely a clutch pitching performance from an unlikely player.
The bats for the Cardinals continued to heat up. Peralta contributed three more RBI to make it 9-0 and a ninth inning two-run home run by catcher Tony Cruz made it 11-1.
Carlos Villanueva came out to pitch the ninth inning getting the job done as the Cardinals won the game 11-1. St. Louis clinched its third straight National League Central division championship en route to its 100 win.
The St. Louis Cardinals season continues starting Friday against the Braves.