On Tuesday, April 12, 1892, the St. Louis Browns took the field against the Chicago Colts. No boxscore exists of that game but the current Cardinals trace their history back to when those players stepped onto the diamond as part of the National League. From that date until September 10, 2021, the club posted 11,018 wins. They took home 23 National League pennants. They won 11 World Series and played in what is arguably the best World Series game of all time. In all of that history and pageantry, of all the All-Stars and Hall of Famers that have put on the birds on the bat, they had never won 15 straight games.
As I have been for much of this streak, I’m pretty much amazed that they were able to do it again. Getting behind for this team seems to be nothing that concerns them. Anytime you might think, “Well, that was it, that was their last chance”, they turn around and capitalize on another one. Time and again yesterday afternoon I was thinking it was over. Jon Lester had trouble finding the plate, perhaps worried about any fly ball that would get into the jet stream that was Chicago’s wind yesterday. After he struggled in the fourth, letting the Cubs back into the lead after the Cardinals had tied it up, he batted in the top of the fifth, making it look like Mike Shildt was pretty content to let the streak run out as well. Then you had the top three in the lineup go quietly in the sixth and you started thinking “It was a heck of a run.”
But it’s not over yet. And the biggest reason that the Cardinals pulled out that game yesterday was Harrison Bader.
Bader homered in the second inning, giving the Cards an early 1-0 lead. He singled in the fifth and stole a base, moving to third with a wild pitch, but that was when Lester was at the plate and nothing came of it. Then, in the pivotal seventh, after Nolan Arenado had doubled and Yadier Molina had singled to put runners on the corners, he slapped an RBI single that made the game 4-3. A Lars Nootbaar single brought in Molina to tie the game and moved Bader to third, where he then scored the go ahead run on Paul DeJong‘s sacrifice fly. Then, in the ninth, he doubled, stole third standing up on the first pitch, then scored when Nootbaar struck out but the ball got away. (Remember earlier in the year when the idea of not being able to advance in that situation was floated? What goes around comes around.) That run was a great bit of insurance, though the two-run blast by DeJong right after was even more appreciated.
All in all, Bader had his first four-hit day, he hit a double and a home run, and he stole two bases. All of that would be enough to make him the Hero on the day. However, Bader’s a little extra. In the midst of an amazing play on the infield, as Mike Shildt said, “Next thing you know, we have a Harrison Bader sighting in the rundown.”
Need to get out of a jam?
Hit 325-4286 for a double play! pic.twitter.com/bmbPEEHmkm
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 26, 2021
Forget 867-5309, let’s call that one up a few times. The defense of this club is astounding. Not only do they make the plays that are hard for their position, such as Dylan Carlson‘s grab at the wall against the Padres or any of the times Bader or Tyler O’Neill have covered acres to make a catch, but they have such game awareness, especially on the infield. This play immediately invokes the double play against the Mets last week, which brought up the similar play against the Cubs earlier in the season. How many other teams do you think have these sort of plays? I don’t imagine it’s many. St. Louis might not have the biggest sluggers (though they can hit the ball) or the strongest pitchers, but I would stack their defense up against any other team’s and be confident of coming out on top.
The Cardinals did all this with their top two hitters in the lineup going a combined 0-8. At least Paul Goldschmidt had a walk. Our Goat again goes to Tommy Edman who put up another 0-5, his second in as many days. He did have three hits in the first game yesterday, so it’s hard to get too down on him, but with Edman’s lack of walking, I still think they could look to upgrade that spot this winter.
Lester could have gotten the Goat but it also could have been much worse for him, plus the strike zone did him no favors. Kwang Hyun Kim got an inning, then T.J. McFarland took two. With he trotted out for the eighth, which is when that double play magic happened, it became real clear the Cardinals were going to do everything they could not to use Giovanny Gallegos, which made sense given that he’d been used in the last two days and five of the last seven. Luis Garcia gave up a home run to Ian Happ in the ninth, because Ian Happ loves to destroy the Cardinals and Garcia let him get a ball up, but the cushion meant that run didn’t really matter and everyone went home happy.
Looking at the major league records for winning streaks, a win tomorrow would move them into a tie for 21st with a number of other teams, many from the early days of baseball (including the St. Louis Maroons) but also the ’77 Royals and the ’86-’87 Brewers, who wrapped theirs from the end of one season to the beginning of the next. Whether it continues until the last homestand or ends tomorrow, it’s been a remarkable two weeks of baseball and it’s something we’ll never see again. Let’s hope the ride has a few more spins, though!