What a season it was.
After 100 wins, and winning yet another division title, the St. Louis Cardinals made it to the National League Division Series. Unfortunately, their season ended on Tuesday when their rivals, the Chicago Cubs, defeated yet another NL Central foe in the postseason, winning 6-4 and advancing to the National League Championship Series.
It was the first time in history the Cubs clinched a postseason series at Wrigley Field, and their first playoff series victory since 2003.
Pitching on only three days’ rest for the Cardinals was John Lackey, who had a phenomenal performance in game one. As for the Cubs, they sent Jason Hammel to the mound, with a Wrigley Field crowd sounding as into the game as a WWE crowd.
Less than five pitches into the game, the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead, when Stephen Piscotty hit a two-run home run.
It stayed that way until the bottom of the second inning. With Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber on base, Hammel hit a single that put the Cubs on the board, a play that the 36-year old Lackey would soon regret. As during the very next at-bat, Javier Baez hit a three-run home run to suddenly make it 4-2 Cubs, sending Wrigley into a frenzy.
St. Louis, however, was not going away easy. Jason Heyward led the top of the sixth with a single, later followed by a single from Jhonny Peralta. Up stepped Tony Cruz with two outs, and he ripped an RBI-double down the right field line, to make it a one run game. Pinch hitter Brandon Moss came into the game, and tied it up with a single that scored Peralta.
But with Kevin Siegrist on the mound in the bottom half of the sixth, Rizzo hit his second home run in two nights, a towering shot to right field, making it a 5-4 game. Later, Kyle Schwarber hit a solo shot to make it 6-4, and the Cubs never lost the lead again.
In the end, it will be the Cubs advancing to their first NLCS in 12 years, facing either the Los Angeles Dodgers or New York Mets.
For the Cardinals, while it will be the first time in five years they will miss the NLCS, it is also a year they (and Cardinals fans) can look back on and be proud of all that was accomplished, especially considering the circumstances that were faced all season long. From injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Carlos Martinez, and a late-season injury to Yadier Molina, the Cardinals were beaten and battered all year long.
But all throughout the year, the phrase “next man up” essentially became the motto for the storied franchise. Young players like Piscotty, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Greg Garcia, played key roles in the lineup, while the young pitchers in Martinez and Michael Wacha continue to improve in the Cardinals rotation.
Was it a disappointing end to the season? Of course. Anything but hoisting the World Series trophy could be considered disappointing. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful season, as the Cardinals won 100 games, their third straight division title, and reassured all of Major League Baseball that come next season, they will be a rejuvenated, healthy team, looking to get right back where they left off.
See you next season, Cardinals.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)