14 wins in a row! Cards tie 1935 club record

September 25th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The game in which the 1935 Cardinals set the franchise record with their 14th consecutive victory came with Pepper Martin batting leadoff against the Boston Braves, crossing the plate twice in support of starting pitcher Paul Dean, who threw a complete game. That Gashouse Gang played just two road games amid their July streak -- both at Wrigley Field -- and averaged just under 6.5 runs per game.

The game in which the 2021 Cardinals tied that record came with pitching as an opener ahead of -- both making long-awaited returns to action -- buoyed by five home runs blasted out into the Wrigley Field bleachers. These Cardinals are averaging 6.93 runs per game in their streak and have yet to see it end.

There are some stark similarities and differences between the two streaks separated by 86 years -- the only two of that length in franchise history after the 2021 team clinched a 12-4 win over the Cubs on Friday -- but no factor is more important than this: These Cardinals have played historically winning baseball at the exact right time, vaulting from fringe postseason contenders to near-mathematical locks to play in October.

“I’ve said it since even the offseason, Day 1 of Spring Training and at any point in time I get the opportunity to talk about this group,” said manager Mike Shildt. “It's a special group.”

Their deficit in the National League Wild Card race stood at three games before their contest on Sept. 11, the start of this streak. Their lead after sweeping both ends of the split doubleheader Friday stood at five games, with their magic number trimmed to four.

But compounding the excitement of the madness is the manner in which it’s come. The Cardinals have scored first in 10 of the 14 wins, scored at least eight runs in each of their last four (including 20 in 14 combined innings on Friday) and are finding contributions from their entire lineup. (Even Hudson got a hit in his first at-bat.)

On Friday, that manifested into two home runs from , his first career multihomer game, as he went back-to-back twice -- once with and once with -- as part of a five-homer nightcap ( slugged the other one) on the heels of three blasts in the matinee.

Where there was Burgess Whitehead in 1935, there’s a Nootbaar in 2021, or a José Rondón just the same.

“You look today, and gosh,” Shildt said, “you could pretty much name everybody.”

Hall of Famers and all-time greats -- Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith to name a few -- who were part of all-time teams came and went in Cardinals jerseys without accomplishing what the 2021 squad has this September.

Asked about the illustriousness of this team’s accomplishment, Nootbaar pointed to the “baseball town,” the championship banners that line Busch Stadium and the retired numbers out in center field. But he also pointed to his elder statesmen, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright.

They were not on the 1935 Cardinals, Nootbaar acknowledged with a wry smile, but they were on the 2006 World Series champion Cards and they won a second ring in 2011. In Milwaukee earlier this week, Nootbaar turned to Wainwright in the dugout and shared some marveling.

“This is unbelievable,” Wainwright told him.

Flaherty, Hudson return
Flaherty, pitching for the first time in a month due to a right shoulder strain, retired his first batter on three pitches but didn’t retire any of the next three he faced, pulled at 19 pitches to give way to Hudson.

It was a planned shortened outing for the right-hander, who reported that he was healthy following his outing and was displeased with both his command and the results. But to have him in the fold was a wholly positive step.

Hudson’s night was a marvel, nearly as much for its production as for its timing, as he threw 3 2/3 innings of two-run ball with two strikeouts and no walks less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery.

“It was just fun to get out there and compete,” Hudson said. “Being a part of the team, getting back to having fun out there. It was a lot of fun.”

The Cardinals will keep plans fluid over the final stretch of the regular season, trying to find as much runway for both starters to feel fully entrenched before the start of the postseason. Health for 2022 has always been the driving force for the pitchers in how they’ve returned to action.

But making their returns on Friday during a historic winning streak and contributing along the way -- back to the competitive fire they’ve both longed for -- will suffice for comfort before any looking ahead in the coming days.