Cards' title pursuit continues into Game 162

September 29th, 2019

ST. LOUIS -- wasn’t watching the final moments of the Brewers-Rockies game that ended a few minutes after the Cardinals’ 8-6 loss to the Cubs on Saturday night at Busch Stadium.

But he heard it.

Cheers filled the Cardinals’ video room and clubhouse when Trevor Story hit a walk-off home run to hand the Brewers a loss at Coors Field. It kept the Cardinals’ postseason fate in their hands for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Cubs. With a one-game lead over Milwaukee in the National League Central, all St. Louis needs to do is win Game 162.

“Pretty exciting that we have the fate in our hands tomorrow,” Edman said.

If the Cardinals win, they win the division and go to Atlanta to begin the NL Division Series on Thursday. If the Cardinals lose and the Brewers win on Sunday, St. Louis will host a Game 163 NL Central tiebreaker on Monday at 2:09 p.m. CT, with coverage on ESPN. The loser of that game would play the Nationals in the NL Wild Card Game in Washington on Tuesday.

But the Cardinals are putting their best starter on the mound to prevent Game 163 from happening. Jack Flaherty, who owns an MLB-best 0.97 ERA since the All-Star break, will start Sunday’s finale.

“Jack’s our guy,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said. “We have a chance to close it out tomorrow, so we’re going to take full opportunity to do it. I think we all recognize the job Jack’s done this second half. … It’s his game.”

Starting Flaherty on Sunday lines up Miles Mikolas to start the Cardinals' next game, whether that is the Game 163 tiebreaker on Monday or Game 1 of the NLDS against the Braves on Thursday. If Mikolas starts the tiebreaker and the Cardinals lose, its unclear who would start the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday, or who would start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers on Thursday if the Cardinals play in and win the Wild Card Game. Flaherty would next be available on Friday, which would be Game 2 of either NLDS.

But for now, the Cardinals need to worry about bouncing back from their fourth loss in a row. -- who was pushed up to Saturday in hopes of clinching the division and saving Flaherty for the first postseason game -- surrendered six runs on 12 hits, including four home runs, in 4 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals’ offense nearly picked up Wainwright, scoring six runs on six hits and bringing the tying run at the plate in the ninth.

“I hate not coming through for the team,” Wainwright said. “Everyone believed in me to go out there and deliver a good game, and I didn’t do it. … It’s unfortunate because we needed the win. I would love to be popping champagne right now, but luckily the Rockies bailed us out a little bit and we still control our own destiny.”

Thanks to the Rockies, the Cardinals don’t have to feel the pressure of hoping something else happens for their benefit -- like the Brewers will have to hope for a Cardinals’ loss Sunday to extend the regular season one more day.

“In a game where there’s so many uncontrollable things, to know that if we win this one game, we can control our fate for this year,” said Harrison Bader, who homered in the fifth inning, “it does mean a lot to us. It doesn’t add any pressure, it’s just the type of stuff you embrace. This is what it’s all about.”

Seeking their first division title since 2015 -- which is also the last year they went to the postseason -- the Cardinals will face a bullpen game from the Cubs on Sunday, starting with left-hander Derek Holland.

“We’ve got the control,” said catcher Yadier Molina, who got into a brief but dramatic shouting match with Cole Hamels after getting plunked by the lefty in the second inning, leading to the benches clearing but no ejections. “If we win it, we win the division. That’s what we wanted the whole season long. We have the control. We have to come in tomorrow and do it. That’s that. We’ve got to do it.”