Photo is credited to Getty Images.
This weekend, the Pirates and Cardinals each played their final regular season series at Busch Stadium to wrap up the 2016 season. With three consecutive losses, the Pirates finished the season 78-83; the Cardinals were able to reach ten games over .500 and wrap up the year at 86-76.
The Cardinals, who entered play Friday a game out of the second National League Wild Card spot held by the Giants, ended play Sunday in the same situation, as the Cardinals and Giants both swept their series this weekend, and the Giants clinched the second Wild Card spot. The Giants will take on the Mets at Citi Field on Wednesday, October 5, in the Wild Card game, and the winner will advance to the NLDS against the Cubs.
Before Friday’s game, the Cardinals announced that they would not be picking up outfielder Matt Holliday’s $17 million club option for the 2017 season. Instead, the team will opt to buy out the rest of Holliday’s deal for $1 million and allow the 36-year-old Holliday to reach free agency. In a somewhat corresponding move, the Cardinals activated Holliday off the disabled list for the first time since he suffered a broken thumb in early August.
Game One: Cardinals 7, Pirates 0 — WP: Carlos Martinez (16-9) LP: Tyler Glasnow (0-2)
Backed by one of Carlos Martinez’s best starts of the year and three home runs, the Cardinals took Friday’s series opener at Busch Stadium against the Pirates, 7-0.
Martinez, who picked up his sixteenth win of the season, logged seven scoreless innings, during which the 25-year-old punched out nine batters and lowered his team-best ERA to 3.04. Jedd Gyorko and Brandon Moss both homered, but the biggest shot of the night came in the seventh inning.
Appearing in his first game since August 13, Matt Holliday, with tears in his eyes, belted an opposite-field, pinch-hit home run before a frantic Busch Stadium crowd. The home run accounted for the first-pinch hit RBI of Holliday’s career.
Game Two: Cardinals 4, Pirates 3– WP: Kevin Siegrist (6-3) LP: Felipe Rivero (1-6) SV: Seung Hwan Oh (19)
Jung Ho Kang’s three-run home run in the first inning was enough to end Cardinals starter Michael Wacha’s day, but it served as the only run-scoring hit the Pirates recorded on Saturday, as St. Louis scored four unanswered runs to take the middle game of the series, 4-3.
Kang smashed his 21st home run of the season, but his team went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way off the Cardinals’ bullpen that was spectacular on Saturday. Miguel Socolovich pitched a scoreless second inning before Trevor Rosenthal logged three frames and Matt Bowman, Jonathan Broxton, Kevin Siegrist, and Seung Hwan Oh each pitched an inning to round out the day.
The Cardinals tied the game with three runs in the sixth, including two of Pirates starter Chad Kuhl. The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth inning, when, with two outs, Jedd Gyorko homered for the 30th time this year off Felipe Rivero to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead that they went on to win the ballgame by.
Game Three: Cardinals 10, Pirates 4 — WP: Jonathan Broxton (4-2) LP: Juan Nicasio (10-7)
The Cardinals were able to reach ten games over .500 for the first time this season with their 10-4 win on Sunday, but the victory proved to lack much meaning beyond that, as the Giants, who were victorious over the Dodgers, clinched the National League’s second and final Wild Card spot.
Adam Wainwright, though denied a chance at his fourteenth win of the year, turned in a quality start of six innings to raise his innings count to 198.2 to close out the season. Wainwright has logged at least 198.2 innings in seven of the last nine seasons.
St. Louis scored nine times across the sixth and seventh innings after trailing, 2-1, following the fifth. Matt Carpenter accounted for three of those runs with his 21st home run of the season. Carpenter was credited for four of the Cardinals’ ten runs, while Randal Grichuk plated a pair and Yadier Molina, Stephen Piscotty, Jedd Gyorko, and Matt Adams each batted in a run.
It was a magical moment in the ninth inning when tenured Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday took the field one final time as a member of the home team at Busch Stadium. Holliday took his native position in left and soaked up the love that flowed out of the sold-out crowd. Holliday was removed from the game after a minute or two and received one final ovation from the crowd he’s played before for seven years.
As I continue to grow as a writer, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to offer words of encouragement and support this season. I’m proud to say I previewed and summarized each series the Cardinals played in, and I am hopeful someone out there benefited from my work. After a little break, I plan to begin a series of offseason posts at one point or another. Feel free to check back soon!