Friday, September 22, 2017

Cardinals sweep their way back into the NL Wildcard race

Molina (R) settles pitcher Martinez (L) in Cards key win
What a difference four days have made for the Saint Louis Cardinals. After being swept this past weekend by the arch-rival and NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs, it seemed their season was over.

National League standings following games of Sunday, September 17, showed the Cardinals with a 77-72 record. That left the team 4.5 games behind the Colorado Rockies for the final NL Wildcard berth with just 13 left to play.

Flash-forward five days. Following an off-day on Monday, the Cards proceeded to sweep the host Cincinnati Reds in a three-game series.

Meanwhile, the Rockies were collapsing on a four-game losing streak. The Milwaukee Brewers, also residing in the NL Central and also chasing Colorado, have dropped their last two games.

Suddenly, the Cardinals are right back in that NL Wildcard race. Thursday night's 8-5 win at Great American Ball Park raised their record to 80-72. That leaves Saint Louis tied in the loss column with Milwaukee, just a game behind Colorado.

"These guys were coming off a tough weekend, and they did a nice job of clearing their minds of that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said per MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.



 


With the Cards clinging to a 4-3 lead in the top of the 7th inning, veteran catcher and leader Yadier Molina came through for his team once again. His double to center field scored Jose Martinez to make it 5-3.

Molina hustled to third base when the throw came to the plate. He would then score himself on a ground out by Kolten Wong to make it 6-3.

In the top of the 9th inning, it was a pair of lesser-known Cardinals hitters who came through. Greg Garcia, pinch-hitting for reliever Tyler Lyons, clutched a two-out RBI double to make it a 7-4 game. Alex Mejia followed with an RBI single to bring home Garcia.

Scott Schebler led off the bottom of the 9th with a solo homer off Cards' reliever Zach Duke. But the veteran lefty then worked his way safely through the rest of the frame, and the Cardinals had their key victory.

"When you're coming off a sweep, the best way to solve that is with a sweep in your favor," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said per Sheldon.

Sweep they did, and now the Cardinals are right back in a race that they seemed out of just days ago. The challenge now with just ten games to go will be to keep on winning. 

Carpenter had a pair of his and a walk out of the leadoff spot, scoring one of the Saint Louis runs. Dexter Fowler had three hits, including a pair of doubles, driving in two runs and scoring two more.

Carlos Martinez was credited with the win, raising his record to 12-11 on the season. He yielded nine hits and four earned runs over 6.1 innings, striking out six and walking just one Cincy batter.

Saint Louis continues on the road for three this weekend at PNC Park against the host Pittsburgh Pirates. The team then returns home to finish up the regular season with a four-gamer against the Cubs, followed by three final potential showdown games next weekend with the Brewers.

Prior to that series, Milwaukee hosts the Cubs for three this weekend at Miller Park. The Reds will then follow Chicago in next week for three games.

Colorado will try to snap out of their recent untimely funk this weekend at Petco Park, where they take on the host San Diego Padres for three games. That will be followed by visits from the Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers to Coors Field for three each to wrap the regular season.

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