Jason LaRue rounds that bases after putting the Cardinals up, 4-3, in the 7th
After much fumbling and floundering the last two weeks, the Cardinals finally clinched the NL Central title, won their 90th game, and made a 19-game winner out of Adam Wainwright.
They beat the Colorado Rockies, the likely wild-card team, and, if so, the Cardinals’ likely opponent in the Division Series, for the first time this season, 6 – 3.
Wainwright threw a herculean 130 pitches over 8 innings, allowing 10 hits and 3 runs while striking out 11.
The outcome was still in doubt in the top of the 7th when backup catcher Jason LaRue, subbing for Yadier Molina, who was hurt earlier in the game, sent the first pitch he saw into the left-field seats to put his team up by 1. Ryan Ludwick hit a 2-run shot in the 9th to give closer Ryan Franklin, who’s been a little shaky of late, some insurance.
Wainwright has a shot at a 20th victory at home this coming Friday, against the Brewers.
El Hombre douses manager Tony LaRussa as the Cardinals celebrate
Clinching the division is nice, but right now, I don’t see how the Cardinals go into the post-season as favorites. After plumping up their won-lost record on much weaker teams in August, they stumbled in the last two weeks and are 5-5 in their last 10. Of of the three other NL teams in the post-season – Dodgers, Phils, and (odds-on) Rockies – the Cardinals have a winning record only against the Bums. While Matt Holliday has been great, the Cardinals’ main offensive weapon, El Hombre, has not been nearly as potent since the All-Star break. In fact, the whole offense has slumbered through two stretches in the second half, and there’s no time for that in October. Pitching’s been satisfactory, but not lights-out, and Ryan Franklin still has to show he’s back on-course by not blowing saves. Hopefully, Molina’s injury is minor.
The next week gives the Redbirds a chance to tune up for the Division Series. Let us hope they pull all the parts of their game together.