ST. LOUIS – On the final day of the season, the St. Louis Cardinals did what they have done for most of the season, they won. The Cardinals beat the Cubs 4-0 to to end the season with a three-game sweep over Chicago.
The Cardinals finished the season with the National League’s top record (97-65) and secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny was pleased with the way his team finished the regular season, winning 17 of 22 games.
“These guys just had an edge,” Matheny said. “They were very consistent and disciplined in the weight room and that sort of stuff plays out, it really does when you get to this part of the year. We see some of our older players in as good a shape as they have been in their life and that is from diet and work. I think having some young players who have been able to step in and give another player rest, that plays out into where we are right now. … But, most of it is that word I keep throwing around about this team, its resiliency and I think being here before puts these guys in a spot that they couldn’t wait to get back.”
Winning pitcher Joe Kelly talked about the team’s playoff hopes from back in spring training.
“I think (the top seed) is definitely a bonus,” Kelly said. “We came in this year wanting to make the playoffs any way we could. We came into spring training wanting to win this division and everyone was picking other guys in front of us. I think that gave everyone a chip on their shoulder and when you have a good group of guys like this, there is no saying what we could do with our talent level. We are happy we have that top seed.”
A sellout (25th sellout this season) crowd of 44,808 fans were on hand to see the Redbirds sweep the Cubs and secure home field for the playoffs. The Cardinals finished the season with an attendance figure of 3,369,769, good for the fifth highest total in franchise history. It is the 10th straight year the Cardinals had had over 3 million fans and the 17th total time overall.
Following the win, before retiring to the clubhouse, the Cardinals came back out of the dugout and tipped their ball caps to the fans.
The Cardinals took a 1-0 lead in the third.
With one out, Joe Kelly drilled a double down the right field line. Matt Carpenter moved Kelly to third on a ground out to second before Jon Jay picked up his second hit of the game to drive in Kelly.
Jay’s first base hit, a single in the first inning, extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games.
St. Louis added two more runs in the fourth.
Matt Adams doubled with one out and scored on Daniel Descalso’s two-out double. Descalso then came around to score on Shane Robinson’s RBI single.
The Cardinals’ final run came in the bottom of the eighth. Jay reached base for the third time when he walked to open the frame. Adron Chambers grounded out, but Jay was able to avoid the double play and advanced to second. Following Adams’ strikeout, Tony Cruz came up with double off the left centerfield wall to plate Jay.
Kelly got the win as he scattered three hits and a hit batter over 5.1 innings of work. Kelly did not walk anyone and struck out five while earning his 10th win of the season.
“That was one of his best outings,” Matheny said. “Just look at the break on his breaking ball, the life on his fastball, I was real impressed. … He went through his normal routine and didn’t miss a beat.”
Kelly becomes the fourth Cardinals pitcher to record double digit wins this season, joining Adam Wainwright (19), Lance Lynn (15), and Shelby Miller (15).
Jake Westbrook got the start in what was probably his final appearance as a member of the Cardinals.
“It meant a lot (to get the start),” Westbrook said. “Just kind of the way the season ended for me and not pitching as well as I would have liked, just to be able to go out there and put up a zero and to get back out there again, it was great to be a part of.”
Not likely to be on the postseason roster, Westbrook retired the first two batters he faced before allowing a double to Anthony Rizzo. But, Westbrook left the runner stranded on second when he got Nate Schierholtz to fly out to Carlos Beltran to end the inning.
“It was pretty emotional,” Westbrook said. “I came out and just for the fact that I don’t really know what my future is as far as baseball goes, so it was good to be a part of and I am glad to be able.”
Knowing his career is likely done in St. Louis, Westbrook got the ball from Beltran for a keepsake.
After the game, Westbrook said he was unsure about his future in the game.
“When I get to the offseason, I will see where I am at with my family,” Westbrook said. “I will see where it is and then kind of go from there.”
Kelly took over on the mound to start the second inning. It was the 22nd relief appearance for Kelly this season.
“It was a little different,” Kelly said. “My mindset was the same the whole time. It felt a little bit awkward, but other than that, I was just pitching again.”
Carpenter finished the season in an 0-for-8 funk and came up one hit shy of 200 for the season.
“That didn’t go right,” Matheny said. “We were convinced and stuck with that plan to leave him in there until he gets that hit. He was – I know – aware of it and pushing hard, but what a season.”
The Cardinals will be off until Thursday, when the Redbirds host the winner of Tuesday’s Reds at Pirates Wild Card Play-in Game in Pittsburgh in the National League Division Series opener. Wainwright will be on the mound in the opener for St. Louis.
“It is going to be tough,” Matheny said. “It is going to be a good fight. They are just as amped up to play us just like we are every time we play them. I know the fans will be into it and it is going to be a good series.”