ATLANTA -- After a weekend of resting their regulars and scripting controlled appearances for others, the Cardinals closed the 162-game portion of the season Sunday and turned their attention to accomplishing a new set of goals.
The Cardinals were officially crowned as kings of what has been baseball's toughest division this season with an 11-1 win over the Pirates on Wednesday. A 2-0 loss to the Braves on Sunday completed an Atlanta sweep, but this was a series much more about preparation than it was immediate results. After spending six months holding off the Cubs and Pirates in the National League Central, the Cards will now face one of the two division foes in Game 1 of the NL Division Series at Busch Stadium on Friday on TBS.
Cardinals righty delivers third solid relief outing
By Nick Suss
ATLANTA -- Mike Matheny was never nervous about Adam Wainwright's curveball.
"I saw him from his very first bullpen; the first time he threw his curveball he was sharp," the Cardinals manager said after a 6-0 loss to the Braves in Game 1 of a doubleheader Sunday afternoon. "That's something that he falls out of bed throwing well."
Garcia, who has emerged a key member of the Cardinals' rotation after starting just 16 games from 2013-14, was announced on Monday as one of 12 finalists for Best Bounceback Player. Martinez, an All-Star in his first season as a full-time starter, is up for Best Breakout Player; while Molina, winner of seven straight Gold Glove Awards, is among the nominees for the Best Defensive Player.
By Mark Bowman and Nick Suss
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
ATLANTA -- Finishing off the regular season on a high note, the Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Cardinals with a 2-0 victory in the second game of a doubleheader Sunday at Turner Field. Rookie starter Matt Wisler turned in a gem for the Braves, finishing one out shy of his first career complete game and shutout.
While the Braves' season is over, the Cardinals move on to the National League Division Series and will host the winner of Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser between the Pirates and Cubs in Pittsburgh. Game 1 of the NLDS will be played Friday at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals outfielder, who suffered a concussion in an outfield collision with Peter Bourjos on Monday, passed every necessary test to return to the field, but said he needed to wait for his players' union paperwork to clear before he could return. Everything was in order Sunday, and as a result, Piscotty returned to the lineup, batting second and playing right field in a 6-0 loss in Game 1 of a doubleheader with the Braves.
By Mark Bowman and Nick Suss
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
ATLANTA -- Shelby Miller ended a maddening four-month winless streak and frustrated his former Cardinals teammates over the eight scoreless innings he completed while helping the Braves claim a 6-0 win in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader at Turner Field.
Miller scattered three hits and needed just 110 pitches to complete his eight innings, which were supported by Adonis Garcia's first multihomer game. This marked the third time the Braves right-hander received at least six runs of suppor and first since he had last earned a win on May 17.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Nick Suss is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Postseason Quiz: Which NL team should you root for?
By Gemma Kaneko |
It's officially October, and it's time to start making some decisions about your fandom.We know that choosing things is hard, so we've simplified the process with a handy set of quizzes. Today: Which National League team should you root for?
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals will play their second doubleheader in five days on Sunday after Saturday night's scheduled game against the Braves at Turner Field was postponed due to inclement weather.
The first game is slated to begin at noon CT, with the second one to follow 30 minutes after the completion of Game 1. John Lackey, who was ready to make his final regular-season start Saturday, will pitch the first game. Lance Lynn will then make his scheduled start in Game 2. Neither pitcher is likely to be pushed beyond about 80 pitches.
ATLANTA -- The Cardinals' already complicated center-field situation may become even more so as the team weighs the viability of Randal Grichuk as an option at that position.
Manager Mike Matheny acknowledged Saturday that playing Grichuk in center field "might be a bit of a push with his limited ability to throw still." While Grichuk, still working his way back to full strength after a mid-August shutdown related to a right elbow injury, has been throwing from a distance of 150 feet during pregame work, he is not yet entirely uninhibited.
ATLANTA -- With the National League Central title and home-field advantage in their pocket, the Cardinals will use this weekend's final regular-season series to ready for the start of their NL Division Series next Friday in St. Louis.
On Friday night at Turner Field, that meant resting several everyday position players and giving a bunch of bench players the opportunity to log a few at-bats. With the organization still sifting through its postseason roster options, how some players perform this weekend could determine whether they fit on the 25-man NLDS roster.
ATLANTA -- Julio Teheran completed his season in impressive fashion and the Braves marred Jaime Garcia's final tuneup for the postseason with a two-run third inning that proved sufficient during Friday night's 4-0 win over the Cardinals at Turner Field.
With the Cardinals resting most of their regulars in preparation for the postseason, Teheran surrendered five hits and escaped multiple scoring threats over six innings. The Braves right-hander concluded a frustration-filled season by notching a 1.62 ERA over his final six starts.
ATLANTA -- Stephen Piscotty, who was knocked out and carted off the field Monday after colliding with fellow outfielder Peter Bourjos, said he is "moving in the right direction" and is expected to be available for Saturday's game after passing a final round of concussion tests on Friday.
Piscotty did some running work and took batting practice on Friday before he was scheduled to visit with a doctor for another concussion-related exam. Manager Mike Matheny said after the Cardinals' 4-0 loss to the Braves that "everything came back clear" from that exam, which was the final test Piscotty had to take under Major League Baseball's concussion protocol.
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals, though picked by many to finish as National League Central champs, navigated to that end in an unexpected way as they posted a 100-plus-win season. With the Cards in the postseason for a franchise-record fifth straight season and preparing to host the Pirates or Cubs in the National League Division Series beginning on Oct. 9, here is a look back at five events that changed the season.
ATLANTA -- Jason Heyward grew up in Atlanta and spent the first five seasons of his Major League career as one of the Braves' most popular players. But when he returned to Turner Field on Friday for the first time since being traded to the Cardinals, Heyward was not necessarily feeling sentimental.
Beginning with the November trade that sent Heyward to the Cardinals, the Braves have spent much of this past year overhauling the organization through a flurry of trades. Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Julio Teheran and Christian Bethancourt are the only members of Atlanta's current roster who played with Heyward last year.
PITTSBURGH -- With an 11-1 victory over the Pirates in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader, the Cardinals were crowned kings of what has been baseball's toughest division this season. And now that the National League Central title is theirs, they can turn their attention from holding off the Cubs and Pirates to preparing to host one of those two division foes in Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
The Cardinals, 100-game winners for the ninth time in franchise history, have already wrapped up home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series by virtue of being guaranteed to finish with more wins than any other NL team. It marks the second time in three seasons that the Cardinals can boast of being the NL's best over a 162-game stretch, and the last time, in 2013, the Cardinals parlayed home-field advantage into a trip to the World Series.
PITTSBURGH -- It has been an extraordinary season for the St. Louis Cardinals, so why wouldn't they raise a third consecutive National League Central pennant in extraordinary fashion? That was the case on Wednesday night, when lefty Tyler Lyons filled an emergency with the best start of his career and was backed by Jason Heyward's third-inning grand slam as the Cardinals personally knocked out the Pirates, 11-1.
St. Louis' 100th win officially eliminated the second-place Bucs, who posted their 96th win in the opener of Wednesday's split doubleheader but have to settle for a third straight appearance in the NL Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser. The Cardinals will play the winner of that game in the NL Division Series, which begins on Oct. 9.
You know the Cardinals -- perennial postseason favorites, they've won 19 National League pennants and 11 World Series titles. But do you know which Cardinal you are? Sure, you might not look in the mirror and see Jason Heyward or Matt Carpenter, but that's because you're just not looking hard enough. Let our quiz help you figure it out.
PITTSBURGH -- Before Game 2 of Wednesday's doubleheader, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak had a gut feeling. All season long the Cardinals have been defined by the success of their "next man up" mentality. When one player went down, someone else stepped up.
So perhaps it was fitting that left-hander Tyler Lyons, starting in place of the injured Carlos Martinez, led St. Louis to its National League Central-clinching victory. Lyons fired seven scoreless innings in his longest start since 2013, and set the tone as the Cards rolled to an 11-1 win over the Pirates at PNC Park.
PITTSBURGH -- In a season where so much of the focus has been on who went down and who came up to fill a void, it was Jason Heyward, one of the constants from season start to season end, who uncorked Wednesday's champagne celebration with a mighty grand slam that highlighted a dynamic night from the right fielder.
With the second grand slam of his career, Heyward deflated a PNC Park crowd that had hoped to see the Pirates tighten the National League Central race. Instead, the Cards cruised to an 11-1 win that sealed win No. 100, and set off a party for the official NL Central champs.
Jon Jay used sleight of hand to turn a Pirates run into a pretend ground-rule double
By Gemma Kaneko |
Let's just take a look at Jon Jay's resume for a moment. He played for the University of Miami, was drafted by the Cardinals in 2006, made his debut in '10, is clearly a member of the Magician's Alliance and picked up a World Series ring in '11.
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals had to wait 159 games, until September had nearly given way to October. They had to wait through Tuesday, when rain postponed their first chance, and they first had to endure a loss in Game 1 of a doubleheader on Wednesday.
Even after they'd beaten the Pirates, 11-1, on Wednesday night, the Cardinals chose to wait until they got back into the visitors' clubhouse at PNC Park. Once they got there, finally, they celebrated their third straight National League Central championship -- a rowdy party they enjoyed even more given everything it took to get here.
Only the Yankees have won more World Series titles than the Cardinals, so when you talk about St. Louis baseball, you should always pick your adjectives carefully.
Good never seems good enough and great sometimes gets topped by even greater. So go ahead and pick your own qualifier to describe the 2015 season, but make sure it's one you've saved for a special occasion.
PITTSBURGH -- Without any recollection of the hit that left him momentarily unconscious in left-center on Monday, Stephen Piscotty returned to PNC Park on Wednesday and was in the dugout for both of the Cardinals' doubleheader games.
Other than that short-term memory loss, Piscotty showed little evidence of having been involved in the violent collision with center fielder Peter Bourjos in the seventh inning of the series opener against Pittsburgh. Both pursued a fly ball, and as Bourjos made the catch, his knee knocked Piscotty near the jaw.
PITTSBURGH -- Cardinals manager Mike Matheny made a case after an 8-2 loss to the Pirates in Game 1 of Wednesday's doubleheader that Michael Wacha pitched better than his final line conveyed. But despite whatever may be in the eye of the beholder, there is no skirting around the reality that Wacha will enter the postseason on the heels of the worst month of his career.
Instead of wrapping up a National League Central title for his team, Wacha closed September with a thud. He was stung first by a Neil Walker solo homer and then a Francisco Cervelli grand slam. Wacha was out after allowing six runs over four innings, the same results he had in his first start of the month.
PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Cervelli's grand slam carried Gerrit Cole to his 19th win and temporarily kept the Cardinals' National League Central-clinching champagne on ice as the Pirates took Game 1 of Wednesday's day-night doubleheader, 8-2, at PNC Park.
The Cardinals then clinched their third straight division title with an 11-1 win over the Bucs in Game 2 of the twin bill.
PITTSBURGH -- Amid the series of warmup pitches he threw on the PNC Park bullpen mound Wednesday afternoon, Adam Wainwright allowed himself a few moments to reflect. After spending months convincing others of what he already believed -- that he would return to pitch in 2015 -- Wainwright knew his time was about to come.
When it did, some 159 days after sustaining an Achilles injury that doctors forecasted would take nine to 12 months to heal, Wainwright jogged in from the bullpen to cap his improbable return. His eighth-inning appearance for the Cardinals meant little to the outcome of an 8-2 Pirates win. But it meant everything to everyone who had watched Wainwright do the unthinkable.
Here is everything you need to know about the Cardinals, who are heading to the postseason for the fifth straight season.
Lance Lynn, RHP
Born: Indianapolis, Ind.
HS: Brownsburg (Ind.) High School
College: University of Mississippi
Minors: Batavia (A-), Quad Cities (A), Palm Beach (A+), Springfield (AA), Memphis (AAA)
• He played on the Brownsburg Little League team that appeared in the 1999 Little League World Series, competing against future Major Leagues Colby and Cory Rasmus, as well as Stephen Fife in the tournament.
• He was teammates with future Major Leaguer Drew Storen at Brownsburg. Lynn was named the state of Indiana's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2005.
• Lynn set strikeout records at Ole Miss, both in the single-season (146) and career (332) categories. He was teammates with Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart.
PITTSBURGH -- Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty was released from Allegheny General Hospital on Tuesday, one day after he was knocked unconscious after a collision with center fielder Peter Bourjos.
Piscotty underwent a neurological exam and MRI on Tuesday morning, both of which came back negative. He was diagnosed with a mild concussion, and he will soon go through Major League Baseball's concussion protocol, but the Cardinals do anticipate seeing Piscotty on the field again this year. And it could be very soon.