On Friday, September 10, 2021, the Cardinals lost to the Cincinnati Reds 4-2. Yadier Molina homered and Jon Lester went seven innings while only allowing two runs, but T.J. McFarland stumbled in the ninth, allowing two runs, and while the Cards got the tying run to the plate in the ninth, Harrison Bader ended the game with a strikeout. That was the last time the St. Louis Cardinals lost a game.
Look, besides the fact that a streak like that was going to end sometime, the game after clinching is almost always a downer. Players get rested, there’s less energy due to the celebration the night before, there’s not quite the buzz that there is when you are closing in on punching your postseason ticket. Once the lineup came out and you saw Lars Nootbaar leading off, Matt Carpenter batting cleanup, and Jose Rondon playing second base, you knew it’d probably take a whole lot of Cardinal Devil Magic to win this one.
However, the Cardinals had some chances, mainly because of Hero Miles Mikolas. Mikolas allowed a run in the first, but then kept the Brewers off the board again until the sixth, when Daniel Vogelbach touched him for a two-run homer (which was much less painful than the grand slam from earlier in the month). Mikolas couldn’t quite get through the sixth but might have had a better result had he gotten any support on the evening.
Adrian Houser was on the other side and did what he usually does against the Cardinals. Two of the four walks and one of the three hits the Cards got were in the first inning, which meant they loaded the bases with one out. However, Harrison Bader, who gets to be the Goat in this one, hit into a double play to end the threat. That’s a real good sign that the mojo has shifted, since Bader had hit into only three double plays all year long. Bader wound up going 0-4 and left a runner on in the fifth and in the seventh as well.
Other than that, it was just one of those “let’s get it over with” games. Matt Carpenter drew a couple of walks, which is like The Eagles playing “Hotel California”, but he had a strikeout and didn’t get any hits, meaning his appropriate last hit (a week ago, but only three AB between then and his start last night) of a double still stands. He’ll probably get another start tomorrow, letting Paul Goldschmidt have the day off, and he’ll start Sunday against the Cubs in his final regular season game as a Cardinal. We’ll see if there’s one more magic moment left in the bat.
As for the bullpen, Andrew Miller relieved Mikolas and got Jackie Bradley Jr. swinging with a runner on, but then allowed a bomb to Manny Pina and a walk to Tyrone Taylor before settling in to get three more outs, two by strikeout. Miller’s going to be on the postseason roster and he may still have some big moments, but it’s for the best that contract is expiring at the end of the year.
Jack Flaherty came in for the eighth and allowed a hit and a walk but didn’t get scored on and Genesis Cabrera pitched a perfect ninth. That allowed many of the big arms in the bullpen to be rested and I imagine there’s a chance some of them will rest again this afternoon as well depending on the situation.
All in all, it was a magical run that we’ll never forget and while it went out quietly and without much fanfare, the winning streak served its purpose. Without it, at best this week is still fraught with some anxiety. Now, with a playoff berth and a winning record assured, the next four games can be treated with a little “eh, whatever” instead of needing to see a doctor about a forming ulcer.
J.A. Happ gets to state his case today for the postseason rotation–I mean, he’s probably in there already, but a good outing couldn’t hurt. Besides, the winning series streak is still intact!