Eleventh Heaven

On Sunday, August 19, 2001, the Cardinals shut out the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them a 68-55 record.  Matt Morris won his sixteenth game by going seven innings and allowing six hits and two walks while striking out four.  St. Louis, on the other hand, had 14 hits and while they didn’t homer, they did have six doubles by Placido Polanco, Jim Edmonds, Edgar Renteria (twice), Mark McGwire, and their rookie outfielder who was batting cleanup.  Whatever happened to that Albert Pujols guy anyway?  Steve Kline and Mike Timlin took the last two innings.  It was the last time the Cardinals won eleven in a row.

Until last night.

I’ve been impressed with the way the Cardinals have jumped out ahead of people throughout September.  They aren’t always scoring in the first inning but they do it often enough that you start to forget the games that they don’t.  Last night was no different, as Tyler O’Neill blasted a home run in the first inning to give them the early 2-0 lead, then they added on with four more in the second.

It’s also clear that this team is fired up and motivated to keep playing winning baseball.  Nolan Arenado went over a tarp to make a catch in foul territory.  Harrison Bader scored from second on a sacrifice fly.  After winning 10 in a row, you could forgive the team if they came out with a little less fire, especially given their lead in the wild card race.  That definitely wasn’t the case though.

What was great about last night was the fact that they kept adding on.  A six run lead after the second is nice, but it doesn’t necessarily take long for that to become imperiled.  A run in the third, another in the fifth, then suddenly a couple of base runners and the tying run in on deck.  We’ve seen too often the Cards have a big first and nothing else.

So last night, they piled on.  A sacrifice fly by Arenado in the fourth.  An RBI double by Bader in the seventh.  A monster two-run homer by Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth.  The bats didn’t shut down after they got the big lead and it was wonderful to see.

My Meet Me at Musial co-host Allen Medlock and I had been, over the course of the last couple of days, been talking about the bullpen and how, with this winning streak, it’s been hard for Mike Shildt to get away from the regular arms.  We had the discussion here in this space yesterday as well.  Our prescription was the hope that, at some point, a game would be out of hand early enough to get these guys that don’t usually get in work.  We just didn’t necessarily think the Cards would be up at that point.

Some of those arms still might have been used last night had not Miles Mikolas been reminiscent of 2018 Miles Mikolas.  He kept the Brewers completely off balance, continuing their hitting woes that they’ve had all series long.  Mikolas went seven innings, allowed only four hits and two runs, and never seemed to have a problem.  Granted, a six run lead allows you to be very aggressive if you want to be without much fear of reprisal, but if we can see more of this going forward, the Cards might have a puncher’s chance if they can get past the wild card game.

With him going seven and the Cards up at the time by six, Shildt still got T.J. McFarland warming which made absolutely no sense.  If you can’t trust those arms out there to get you six outs before they allow six runs, what are they even doing on the roster?  Thankfully when Goldy hit his bomb McFarland sat and the last two innings were handled (perfectly well) by Justin Miller and Andrew Miller.  Justin walked a guy but that was the only baserunner they allowed.  Again, Shildt’s got to take advantage of these sort of games and let the guys get some rest, otherwise they are going to be completely out of gas just when they are needed the most.

It’s a tough game to pick out a Hero, but let’s go with Paul Goldschmidt.  Three hits, including the home run late, plus he scored four runs.  Harrison Bader was also under consideration given his three hits and that heads up aggressive baserunning on the sacrifice fly.  It’s not completely unheard of for two people to score on a sac fly, but how often does it happen where the runner doesn’t even draw a throw to the plate?

Finding a Goat is tough as well as almost every starter had multiple hits.  The only exceptions were Tommy Edman, who had one hit and drove in two, and Yadier Molina, who went 0-4 and left two men on base.  We’ll go with Yadi but last night was definitely the night to go o-fer!

Adam Wainwright goes to the mound this afternoon (on YouTube) trying to finish off the Cardinals’ third straight sweep.  It would be ironic if the man that has stopped so many losing streaks this season was the one to stop a historic winning streak, but winning 12 is hard and Adrian Houser shut down the Cardinals last time out.  Plus Milwaukee has been pent up for a while.

If Waino wins, though, it’s possible this streak could run out to levels not seen before.  St. Louis makes their last trip to Chicago this weekend and Jack Flaherty is going to be on the mound for the second game of the doubleheader on Friday.  Dakota Hudson might be with them as well, as the Cards held off on his rehab start last night.  The Cubs always play the Cardinals tough no matter the situation or how good that team really is, but you could start to imagine getting a couple of wins in Wrigley.

Gotta win today before any of that matters, though.  The Reds were rained out yesterday, the Phillies won, and the Padres lost.  That gives the Cards a 4 1/2 game lead on the first two and a six game lead on the latter.  If the Cardinals can win six of their remaining 11 games, the Reds and Phillies will need to go 10-0 to tie.  It’s not over yet, but there’s a large woman backstage warming up.  Let’s hope she gets louder this afternoon!

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