On Thursday, July 18, 1935, the Cardinals defeated the Boston Braves 13-3. Paul Dean, also known as Daffy because the press needed a nickname that reflected his brother’s, went the distance and gave up just five hits and three runs. Burgess Whitehead and Pepper Martin both had four hits and Martin would have been the Hero of the game with his two doubles and home run. Bill DeLancey also went deep, Joe Medwick had a couple hits and a couple RBI, and Leo Durocher had a hit playing shortstop. It was the last time–the only time–the Cardinals won 14 in a row.
Until last night. After yesterday afternoon.
This run of Cardinals baseball is unfathomable because we have no real frame of reference for this. Alex Crisafulli ran down the longest streaks of the last 21 seasons on the most recent episode of Chirps, back when this was still in single digits, and it just doesn’t happen that often. Usually the Cardinals, and I imagine most teams, top out at six or seven straight on a season. Hitting 10 is really rare. To go out to 14, well, this streak even predates my father’s life span (who was born just over seven years after that streak ended). Sure, we all know about the A’s winning 20 in 2002 or Cleveland winning 21 in 2017, but those were things we followed from a distance. We didn’t live it daily, on each pitch or at bat. This is uncharted territory.
But boy, is it a lot of fun.
Ben Cerutti has a thread up about the stats over these 14 games. As you’d expect, the hitters are going out of their mind (26 homers, 139 wRC+ if you take out pitchers) and the pitching has an ERA under 3 and a FIP about a run higher because the defense has been outstanding. There’s not really an aspect of the last 14 games that’s been bad. Heck, we have doubles from Matt Carpenter and a home run from Paul DeJong in the span. If you are disappointed at all right now, your standards are too high!
There have been all sorts of games in this run and yesterday’s doubleheader against the Cubs highlighted that fact. The first game was a blowout until it wasn’t, one of those Wrigley Field games with the wind blowing out and the craziness that comes with playing in that cursed place coming to bear. Going into the game, the Cardinals had one 30 home run guy. Leaving it, they had three for only the second time in the club’s history.
Paul Goldschmidt, the Hero of the piece, got things started by banging number 30 in the third, giving the Cards the 2-0 lead. When you are only playing seven innings, having a lead after three feels pretty good. It got better in the fifth as both Jose Rondon and Tyler O’Neill (bro’s 30th) reached the seats. Well, technically Rondon’s did. O’Neill’s saw the seats and kept on going out to Waveland. In the sixth, Tommy Edman and Goldschmidt drove in runs and it was 8-0 with six outs left to get.
However, it’s Wrigley Field and no lead is entirely safe. I keep having flashbacks to the A’s of 2002. In their 20th game, they jumped out to an 11 run lead, only to have to go to extra innings against the Royals to get the win. (Before I looked it up, I thought they had lost the streak this way.) Even with large leads, I’m going to be somewhat skittish until the game is over. After all, the Cardinals have done remarkable things of late. Other teams could as well.
Alex Reyes had pitched the fifth with no problem, getting a line out, a strike out, and a ground out. He then struck out the first two batters of the sixth and looked like he was cruising along. However, then he walked Matt Duffy on four pitches. Frustrating, but it’s not a Reyes outing without a walk, especially if you are going multiple innings. Then he gave up a home run to Sergio Alcantara, making it 8-2. Shake it off, get the out, and things are good.
Except he then gave up a hit to David Bote. Then he walked Trace Thompson on four pitches.
Before we leave Reyes, who I’m tagging as the Goat, we should probably note that since August 29, he’s given up five of his nine homers and has an ERA of 6.59 even while batters are hitting .167 against him. There’s got to be some concern that he’s just wearing down. He’s at 71.1 innings right now, so while he could get the 8.2 innings he needs to get to the 80 innings that the Cardinals say they want for him (after the 100 inning target was shifted a couple months ago), I don’t think it’d be a good thing if he did. He’s just over an inning from equaling his career innings pitched before this season. While he still obviously has some stuff–three strikeouts yesterday and the homer was probably wind-aided–it’s also got the chance to unravel spectacularly once things get off track.
Anyway, he turned it over to T.J. McFarland and some of the same things we say about Reyes could be applied to him. Since finally getting scored upon September 10, he’s got a 6..48 ERA (but a 2.69 FIP) and batters are hitting .364 against him. That ERA obviously is a little weird since some of his runners he’s left on have scored while he’s allowed other runners to score, so don’t take that as a huge indicator. That BAA against, though, that worries me.
That also led to the issues here, as he allowed a single to Austin Romine that plated two and a double to Willson Contreras that made it 8-5 and put the tying run on deck. Thankfully he got Frank Schwindel to line out, Giovanny Gallegos had no real issues in the ninth, and 13 wins were in the books.
The biggest thing from this one, besides the win, was the fact that Edmundo Sosa got hit. That’s not really news–he’s been hit 17 times this season–but this time it was on his wrist. It was so painful that Sosa–who as Danny Mac noted on the broadcast earlier this year got hit in the head with a fastball and stayed in the game–didn’t wait for the trainers but went straight to the dugout, a move I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Thankfully, X-rays didn’t show a fracture, but since the Cardinals need to make a roster move today, he might wind up on the IL anyway.
We’ve seen more of the type of second game in the last few weeks than we did all year long. Just a rip-roaring romp through another team. It looked like it was going to be a wild game when the Cards scored three in the top of the first (and almost again sent nine men to the plate in the first inning, which would have been the third time this month) and the Cubs answered with two in the bottom of the frame. However, the Cards then scored three in the second and two in the third before the Cubs countered with one. Both teams scored one in the fifth, then the birds flew high with three in the ninth.
Our Hero, in both the game and in life, is Mr. Lars Nootbaar. (I always want to write his first name as Laars as well. Every time.) He carried an 0-23 into the game and took care of that with a single and two home runs, driving in three. Someone pointed out on Twitter that the last three homers Noot has hit have been back-to-back with someone else. In this one, he was the front end of one with Paul DeJong, who REALLY needed that, and the back end with Harrison Bader.
If it wasn’t for Nootbaar’s display, the Hero could have easily gone to Dakota Hudson. As I noted on Musial this week, I’m not the biggest advocate for Hudson, but he looked quite remarkable in his first major league appearance after Tommy John surgery just under a year ago. With Jack Flaherty starting the game on a very limited pitch count, this was really going to be Hudson’s affair. He came in with one out in the first after Flaherty had allowed a two-run homer and a walk and proceeded to keep the Cubs at bay, giving up a single but then a force out and a strikeout. Overall, he pitched 3.2 innings and allowed four hits and two runs. In a closer game, he wouldn’t have started the bottom of the fifth (but it did allow him to walk in the top half, pairing that with his single in the second for a perfect night at the plate) and he wound up loading the bases with nobody out. Genesis Cabrera bailed him out, only allowing one of the runners to score on a sac fly.
Lots of great moments in the nightcap but our Goat goes to Tommy Edman for another 0-5 evening, leaving three men on base. Edman leads the league in at bats, mainly because of his low walk rate, so 0-5s aren’t necessarily unheard of. In fact, it’s the second one of the streak. His OBP for September is .291, so it’s remarkable how well the offense is clicking when the leadoff guy isn’t getting on. That said, when he has a game, he has a game. He’s got seven multi-hit games in September.
For the last few days, I’ve been able to start the posts with the same type of phrasing. If they win today, I can’t. They’ve never won 15 in a row. Jon Lester at Wrigley is a big concern for me. Besides the emotions of pitching against his old team–though there probably aren’t too many faces over there that he has major connections to–there’s the whole idea of fly balls that would be outs in Busch that hit the stands at Wrigley. Adrian Sampson has only faced the Cards once, in 2019 as part of the Rangers, but has had a good year.
The streak has to end sometime. I’d really like it not to be today though!