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Here are the Cards' top 5 wins of 2019

November 26, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals won 91 games in 2019, each of them important in winning the National League Central and getting back to the postseason. But can any of those wins tell us something about next year? St. Louis is likely going to return most of its roster, so

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals won 91 games in 2019, each of them important in winning the National League Central and getting back to the postseason. But can any of those wins tell us something about next year?

St. Louis is likely going to return most of its roster, so there are plenty of good things that happened this year that the club will want to draw on, and improve upon, next year.

Let’s look back to the Cardinals’ best wins in 2019 and what each tell us about 2020:

1) June 2: Cardinals 2, Cubs 1
Vintage Waino

Adam Wainwright put together plenty of vintage performances this season, including two dominating efforts in the postseason. But this was his first in 2019 -- a 126-pitch, eight-inning outing against the Cubs. Wainwright allowed only two hits and struck out eight, and his day was capped by Kolten Wong’s stellar catch in shallow right field. Wainwright's start helped push the Cardinals to a series sweep of the Cubs at Busch Stadium.

What does it tell us about 2020?
It wasn’t known then if this year would be Wainwright’s last season, but now we know it was not. Wainwright and the Cardinals agreed on a one-year deal on Nov. 12 to bring the veteran pitcher back to St. Louis for at least 2020. Wainwright’s goal is to build on his fully healthy season, and if he puts together more starts like this one, he can be the steady, experienced starter that the Cardinals need in their rotation.

2) July 21: Cardinals 3, Reds 1
Gallegos and bullpen show reliability

The surprise emergence of Giovanny Gallegos was one reason why the Cardinals' bullpen was one of the most efficient in the Majors this year. Gallegos had many crucial outings throughout the year, but this one was notable. With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth, the right-hander struck out Josh VanMeter and Scooter Gennett swinging on sliders. It protected the Cardinals’ two-run lead and, eventually, helped capture a series win over the Reds. In 1 2/3 innings that day, Gallegos struck out four of the five batters he faced. Then, the Cardinals' bullpen pitched 4 2/3 innings and allowed one hit, another example of the steady work it did all year.

What does it tell us about 2020?
Almost all of the Cardinals' relievers will be back in 2020, making the bullpen a strength next year. Closer Carlos Martínez is working toward a return to the rotation, but Gallegos and Ryan Helsley (2.95 ERA in 2019) could take over the closing role until Jordan Hicks returns from Tommy John surgery halfway through the year. The Cardinals also return lefties Andrew Miller and Tyler Webb, who performed well in the postseason against the Braves' and Nationals' power left-handers. This game shows how reliable Gallegos and the Cardinals' bullpen were this year. The Cardinals are hoping 2020 is no different.

3) Aug. 16: Cardinals 13, Reds 4
Cardinals' offense clicks

After being held to two hits the night before this game, the Cardinals quickly turned the page. They broke out for a season-high 18 hits in their rout of the Reds, and they chased All-Star Luis Castillo -- who had a 1.13 ERA against the Cardinals in four starts before Aug. 16 -- from the game after eight runs in 4 1/3 innings. Four Cardinals had home runs in different innings, and the team had matched its hit total from the previous three games (15) by the sixth inning.

What does it tell us about 2020?
Lack of consistent production throughout the lineup -- and especially from key contributors -- was the Cardinals’ downfall in 2019, especially in the National League Championship Series against the Nationals, when the Cardinals mustered only four earned runs and hit .130 over four games. But games like this one show the capability of this offense. When it clicks, it can be powerful. Many of those contributors will be back in 2020, like Paul Goldschmidt, Dexter Fowler, Paul DeJong, Wong and Matt Carpenter. The Cardinals are hoping that improvement in the offense comes from within, with players getting back to their career numbers. The Cardinals don’t have to knock 18 hits every game -- although wouldn’t that be fun if they did? -- but this game highlights that the potential for run production is within this lineup. It’s just a matter of unearthing that consistently in 2020.

4) Aug. 26: Cardinals 12, Brewers 2
Middle-of-the-lineup power

Part of that offensive power came from the middle of the lineup, with Goldschmidt and Marcell Ozuna (who is a free agent and might not be returning next year). The two power hitters struggled at different times in the season, but when they clicked, the offense crushed. In the sixth inning of this Cardinals win over the Brewers, Goldschmidt walked to load the bases, and Ozuna cleared them with a double to right field to break the game open. This was part of a stretch of 10 games in which their swings were in sync, and it was no coincidence that the Cardinals won eight of those games.

What does it tell us about 2020?
While the Cardinals are exploring a multi-year offer with Ozuna, what this win shows is the importance of having a productive cleanup hitter to complement Goldschmidt, whether that’s Ozuna or someone else. It feeds into the cohesiveness of the lineup. When they were in sync, pitchers had to choose between facing Goldschmidt or Ozuna, especially when Fowler and Wong got on base ahead of the two power hitters. Goldschmidt’s OPS with runners in scoring position was .868, while Ozuna’s was .818. The Cardinals’ goal in 2020 is an improved offense, and finding a cleanup hitter to complement Goldschmidt should be the first step.

5) Sept. 19: Cardinals 5, Cubs 4
Flaherty flashes dominance

The Cardinals and Cubs played seven times over the final two weeks of the regular season, and the series opener of the four-game series at Wrigley Field lived up to the hype. Jack Flaherty was pegged for the start, and he delivered, allowing one run on three hits over eight innings. While the Cubs roared back once Flaherty exited, and Carpenter’s homer in the 10th gave the Cardinals the win, this game was one of Flaherty’s most dominant during his epic second half. He struck out eight Cubs and stifled most of them inside a packed Wrigley Field during a crucial stretch of the division race. The Cardinals went on to win the next three games, sweep the Cubs and clinch a spot in the postseason.

What does it tell us about 2020?
Flaherty does not shy away from the big moment, and his 0.91 ERA in the second half should give the Cardinals plenty of optimism heading into 2020. Because of it, he finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting, emerged as the Cardinals' ace and will be looked at to build on those starts. In his second full year in the Majors, Flaherty had a 2.75 ERA and struck out 231 batters over 196 1/3 innings. Flaherty, 24, should anchor a strong Cardinals rotation in 2020 that will include Wainwright, Dakota Hudson and Miles Mikolas.

Anne Rogers covers the Cardinals for Follow her on Twitter @anne__rogers and on Facebook.