No one really ever wants to be the “other” team in a game with historic implications. The Cardinals are a team that can trace its roots back to 1892. A team that has won 11 World Championships. And now a team that has had a 15-game winning streak. Next up? They will look to finish a four-game sweep of the Cubs on Sunday and in the process become one of only 30 teams to have won 16 in a row.
Of course, they still have some work to do to totally re-write history. The most recent entry on the 16 (or more) consecutive wins chart is 22 in a row in 2017 by the Cleveland Indians. That team finished 42 games over .500. so their streak seems a little less crazy.
Still, when you are the Cubs or the Cardinals or the Reds, or a player on one of those teams, it means something to do something that’s never been done before. The Cardinals have played a lot of baseball and an awful lot of it is very good baseball. But they’ve never done this before. There are an awful lot of categories where the Cardinals have bragging rights, but this isn’t one of them. The Cubs franchise owns a 21-game winning streak. They did it back in 1935. That was a team that finished 46 games over .500.
Amusingly enough, St. Louis has been a baseball city so long, that the city has seen not one but two streaks of more than 15 wins. In 1884, the St. Louis Maroons had a 20-game winning streak. They must have had some other pretty long streaks. That team has a record that looks like it came from the NBA. They were 94-19. Sadly, that team moved to Indianapolis a couple of years later and then folded. The other team to do it was the 19th Century St. Louis Browns. Now those Browns did later become the Cardinals. So, in a sense the St. Louis franchise does already have a longer streak. That was 17 games back in 1885. That team also had a pretty lopsided record at 79-33.
For the record, of those 29 teams that won 16 consecutive games or more, just four of them went on to win a championship. So there’s no reason to think that because they have been so red hot these last few weeks, that they are moving themselves into championship contention. They are still in all likelihood going to fly west to play a 100+ win runner-up team from the NL West. And then they are going to move on to their previously scheduled off-season that was delayed by this late season run.
I do want to say something about late season records. I don’t want to specifically take anything away from this Cardinals winning streak. This streak has included wins against the Reds and sweeps of the Mets (in New York), Padres, and Brewers (in Milwaukee) before they even got to Chicago. Prior to this Cubs series, those wer all teams over .500 and in some level of playoff contention. I’m sure there were sportswriters in August who were looking ahead at this stretch of games and saying that the Cardinals would get blown out of the water before they even got to the seven games against the Cubs in the final two weeks.
Anyway, I do want to say this about modern win/loss records. One of these days, some team is going to run up a crazy record, something akin to a longer version of last year’s Dodgers who went 43-17 (.717) in the 60-game schedule. One of the reasons why we are going to see more of these seasons is the continued rise of purging rosters at the trade deadline. Coupling that with a trade deadline that moved forward and also the rise of tanking to rebuild and you have the recipe for running up a huge record.
It’s getting easier and easier to pad your record in the second half of the season if you are a good team. Of course, it isn’t automatic. Sorry Padres, sorry Mets and sorry Reds. But the potential is there. Particularly if it happens that one very strong team plays in a division with four teams that are in rebuild mode. That could create an environment where in the last quarter of the season you have the ability to win at an 80 or 90 percent clip.
The flip side of the coin is just how bad one of these tanking teams can be. Of course, the Cubs didn’t enter into tank mode until the end of June. But, never forget this Cubs team was 38-27 after sweeping the Cardinals in Chicago in mid-June. This team is now 29-61 (.322) since then. There have been a couple of hot stretches. But the rest of the time, this team has been completely overmatched.
That takes us up to Saturday’s loss. It was the Cubs’ ninth in their last 10 games. Mercifully, there are only seven of them left. Of course, four of them are against this Cardinals team with three of those being in St. Louis to finish the season. This team still has a chance to lose 95 games, though it will likely come in a tad lower than that.
Let’s go to the numbers from Saturday’s game. As you’ll recall, the Heroes and Goats are determined by WPA (Win Probability Added) and are not in any way subjective. Many days WPA will not tell the story of what happened, but often it can give at least a glimpse to who rose to the occasion in a high-leverage moment or who didn’t get the job done in that moment. And now, let’s get to the results.
Game 155, September 25: Cardinals 8 at Cubs 5 (67-88)
- Superhero: David Bote (.311). 2-3, BB, 3B, R, K
- Hero: Ian Happ (.155). 2-4, HR (24), BB, 3RBI, R, K
- Sidekick: Willson Contreras (.139). 2-5, 2B, 2RBI, R, DP
- Billy Goat: Codi Heuer (-.523). 4 batters faced, 4H, 3R (L 7-3)
*Heuer’s inning registers the fifth largest negative WPA game score of the year for the Cubs. But it wasn’t even his worst with the Cubs (-.565 on 8/14)
- Goat: Rafael Ortega (-.327). 0-1
- Kid: Tommy Nance (-.147). IP, 6 batters faced, 2H, 3R, 2K, WP
WPA Play of the Game: With runners on first and third in the eighth inning, the Cubs were trailing 5-4. There was only one out at the time. Rafael Ortega pinch hit against T.J. McFarland. Ortega grounded to first and David Bote was caught in a rundown and eventually tagged out for the second out. But that wasn’t enough of an indignity. Trayce Thompson was also eventually tagged out for potentially the stupidest double play in recent memory. (.327)
*Cubs Play of the Game: David Bote led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a triple to set the table for the debacle that would eventually follow. (.267)
Who was the Cubs Player of the Game?
This poll is closed
Adrian Sampson (6IP, 3H, 2R, 4K, WP)
Rizzo Award Cumulative Standings: (Top 5/Bottom 5)
- Frank Schwindel +32
- Kris Bryant/Patrick Wisdom +26
- David Bote -13 (+3)
- Jake Arrieta -19
- Zach Davies -25
Up Next: The Cardinals will go for a 16th straight win and a four game sweep of the Cubs. Keegan Thompson (3-3, 3.40) will go for the Cubs. The Cardinals will start Jake Woodford (3-3, 3.92).