Cards chasing team, individual milestones
In season's final month, club eyeing record win total, most Rosenthal saves and more
ST. LOUIS -- With one month remaining on the regular-season schedule, the Cardinals sit comfortably ahead of the Pirates in the National League Central and are poised to advance to the postseason for the fifth straight season. Their sights are set on winning a third straight NL Central division title and wrapping up home-field advantage through the NL Championship Series, though there are some less obvious marks of which the club also remains in pursuit.
To set up the season's final weeks and what is at stake, here is a look at eight figures/records -- four related to the team and four on the individual side -- that the Cardinals seem poised to challenge.
Win total (Current: 86): Sitting 39 games over .500 with 29 games left on their schedule, the Cardinals are on pace for a 105-win season. The 1942 team set the franchise record with 106 wins, and only three times since then (1943, 1944 and 2004) have the Cardinals won 105 regular-season games.
Home wins (Current: 48): No Major League team has had more success at home this season than the Cardinals, who, with 13 games remaining at Busch Stadium, are on pace to win 57 games there. That's a mark hit just twice previously in franchise history, first in 1942 (60) and then in 1943 (58). The 2013 club won 54 home games under Mike Matheny.
Team ERA (Current: 2.67): Not only is the Cardinals' ERA more than a half-run lower than any other team's mark this season, it is also the lowest by a Cardinals' pitching staff since 1968, a year so dominated by pitching that it led to changes with the height of the mound. Since that season, only three teams have posted a team ERA lower than the Cardinals' current mark. The Astros had a 2.66 ERA in the strike-shortened 1981 season. In 1972, the A's and Orioles finished with ERAs of 2.58 and 2.53, respectively.
Postseason berths (Current: four straight): Before last season's trip to the postseason, the Cardinals had never had a run of four consecutive years with a playoff berth. Now, they're close to making it five. The Cardinals are also trying to become the first team since the Braves (1995-99) to advance to the LCS in five straight years.
Trevor Rosenthal saves (Current: 42): Having already joined Lee Smith as the only closers in franchise history with multiple 40-save seasons, Rosenthal now has his eyes on the Cardinals' save record. Smith (1991) and Jason Isringhausen (2004) own that record with 47-save seasons. Rosenthal, who saved 45 games a year ago, is on pace to save 51. There have been only 14 50-save seasons in baseball history.
Yadier Molina games started (Current: 119): Reaping the benefits of a winter weight-loss program, Molina, at age 33, is on pace to catch more than ever before. He made a career-high 136 starts behind the plate in 2009, but he sits on pace to start 144 in 2015. That current pace also has him in line to catch nearly 100 more innings than he did in '09.
Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha wins (Current: 13 and 15): Two more wins from Martinez would give the Cardinals their first pair of 15-game winners age 24 of younger since 1934, when Dizzy Dean won 30 games and his brother, Paul, 19. In NL history, teammates 24 years or younger have enjoyed concurrent 15-win seasons just 14 times. It last happened with the 1986 Mets (Sid Fernandez and Dwight Gooden).
Matheny winning percentage (Current: .583): Last year, Matheny joined Ron Gardenhire (2002-04), Larry Dierker (1997-99), Ralph Houk (1961-63) and Hughie Jennings (1907-09) as the only managers to lead their club to the postseason in their first full three seasons. This year, Matheny is poised to become the first in history to start his managerial career with four straight playoff berths. He already became the sixth-quickest manager to 300 wins on May 17, and Matheny has the 10th-highest winning percentage in baseball history among managers with at least three full seasons at the helm.