On Saturday, April 24, 1982, the Cardinals defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4. The Phillies got up 3-0, the Cardinals battled back to tie it, both teams swapped runs, then St. Louis put up three in the eighth to win. Joaquin Andujar started. Bruce Sutter got a two inning save (they just called those saves back then). The three run rally involved a Dane Iorg single, pinch-runner David Green stealing second, Ken Oberkfell being intentionally walked, Ozzie Smith singling to load the bases, then an RBI groundout by Orlando Sanchez and a two-run single by Lonnie Smith. It was the last time the Cardinals won twelve in a row.
I’m going to be honest with you, I still don’t believe that actually happened. Everything was lined up for a loss. You had Adam Wainwright, who has been so good for so long and stopped so many losing streaks, due for an off day. You had Adrian Houser, who seems to be turning into the new Kyle Hendricks the way the Cardinals can’t hit him. You had an afternoon game in Milwaukee (which doesn’t feel like it usually goes well) and it was on YouTube, which is the exact scenario of when Alex Reyes came back, threw four innings, then was out the rest of the year in 2018. On top of all that, the Cardinals had won the first three games of the series and it’s really tough to sweep a team like the Brewers in their own park in a four game set, especially when your winning streak is already over double digits. All the narrative pieces were stacked against them.
And that was before the game even started.
There is no doubt that the team from June, July, August, and possibly the first week of September would have basically folded their tents after their ace allowed a grand slam in the bottom of the first. Wainwright wasn’t getting some calls, to be sure, and nobody was necessarily hitting him except for Tyrone Taylor, but they were down 4-0 and that’s a hill to climb. When Taylor hit a solo shot his next time up to make it 5-0, it only added nails to the coffin. Even Wainwright noted that in his post-game comments. “Earlier in the year when we got down one or two runs, you could feel the air leave out of the building. Everyone was kind of like, ‘Aw man, this is going to be really tough.’”
Then there was what the Cardinals were doing. Two double plays in the first three innings. Yadier Molina singles in the first run of the game, only to get picked off. The Cards still are able to load the bases but Tommy Edman pops up. Chances were there and they were getting tossed aside. There seemed no way that the team was going to win this and, while never pleasant, wasn’t as disappointing as it could have been given the long winning streak and the cushion they had built in the wild card race.
This team, over the last three weeks, has hit different though (and I don’t mean just at the plate). The rest of Wainwright’s quote spells that out: “But now when we get down — lately we hadn’t been down a whole lot — but when we get down, our guys are seemingly just real comfortable up there.” Before September 11, the Cardinals had never rallied from four or more runs down to win a ballgame. Now they’ve done it twice, once to start the streak against the Reds and once to keep the streak going yesterday.
The streak has shown that the Cards are pretty talented in all facets of the game. Yesterday, it was Tommy Edman using his speed to beat out what would have been another double play in the seventh to bring in the second run and keep the inning going. There was the smart baserunning of Dylan Carlson in the eighth to move to second on a throw to third, putting him eventually in position to score on a sacrifice fly. There was the bullpen, throwing five scoreless innings with only Kwang Hyun Kim getting into any real trouble (and he was able to work his way out of it).
Then there was the power of Paul Goldschmidt.
His two run blast almost felt inevitable given how the momentum had shifted in that inning with Houser out and runners on. His ninth inning shot was just icing on the cake and provided this comment:
Why on earth are the Brewers still pitching to Goldschmidt?
— Jeff Jones (@jmjones) September 23, 2021
Indeed, it’s quite the conundrum. Before yesterday they’d actually some corralled him–he was slashing .241/.318/.431 against them this season–but he homered Wednesday night as part of his three hits and his career OPS at Miller/American Family Park was 1.101. Goldschmidt has been MVP caliber for a while now–as Ryan Shull tweeted, he’d have 45 homers and 119 RBI if he’d played at his post-All Star pace all season long–and the Cardinals surge should get him some consideration, though it’ll be down ballot.
Paul Goldschmidt is the Hero and Adam Wainwright is the Goat, but pretty much everyone played a part. The only one that didn’t was Tyler O’Neill, who went 0-5 and struck out three times, but I don’t think anyone is going to complain about how Tyler O’Neill has been playing.
The Phillies and Padres won while the Reds lost, so now the Cardinals are 4 1/2 up on Philadelphia, 5 1/2 up on Cincinnati, and six up on San Diego. San Diego has the resumption of a game they are leading today before their regularly scheduled one and with the Cards having a doubleheader, those pesky 1/2s will be taken care of one way or the other.
The Cardinals get two games against the Cubs today. Given that it’s the Cubs, even in some form unrecognizable, it would be a very big surprise if they won both and stretched the streak out to 14 but if they did, they’d tie the team record. We get the return of Jack Flaherty this evening, though he’ll probably only go an inning. There’s still a possibility that Dakota Hudson will appear and if he doesn’t, if he makes the start in Memphis, I’m not sure why they’d bother adding him to the roster next week. It’s going to take something significant–at least to Justin Miller, who would probably be the one cut to add Hudson–to get him on the roster and is it worth that for just one appearance? I guess we’ll find out.
A dozen wins in a row. If I didn’t need to hurry around to record Musial this morning, I’d go get a dozen donuts to celebrate!