CHICAGO -- The Cardinals' postseason chances survived Saturday afternoon only to fade as the sun later began to set in Chicago.After parlaying a spectacular start by Miles Mikolas into a 2-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals could do nothing but spectate and hope. The possibility of
CHICAGO -- The Cardinals' postseason chances survived Saturday afternoon only to fade as the sun later began to set in Chicago.
After parlaying a spectacular start by Miles Mikolas into a 2-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, the Cardinals could do nothing but spectate and hope. The possibility of taking the field for a meaningful Game 162 hinged on an outcome at AT&T Park, where the Giants were hosting the Dodgers.
"Big Giant fans right now," manager Mike Shildt noted before leaving the ballpark.
The Cardinals entered the day trailing the Dodgers by two games in that National League Wild Card race, meaning it would have taken two St. Louis wins and two Los Angeles losses this weekend to force a Game 163 in St. Louis on Monday.
But the back-and-forth game eventually went to the Dodgers, who rallied for a 10-6 win, sparked by Manny Machado's eighth-inning RBI triple. Los Angeles snagged the Majors' final postseason berth with the victory, officially knocking St. Louis out of contention.
For the first time since 1997-99, the Cardinals have missed the playoffs in three consecutive seasons.
Cognizant of all that was at stake on Saturday, Mikolas delivered one of his strongest performances of his steady season. He helped resuscitate a Cardinals team that had dropped four straight games by twirling his team-leading 20th quality start to finish a perfect season (10-0) on the road. Mikolas joins Greg Maddux (1995) and Jimmy Key ('94) as the only starters in Major League history to win at least 10 games on the road without absorbing a loss.
"Miles is a microcosm of what we look [for] -- and that's consistent competition," Shildt said. "That's what wins. Credit to him. He shows up, prepares, he's even-keel and goes out and executes and pitches. Just a fantastic job for him."
Mikolas' 18 wins tied Jonathan Lester and Max Scherzer for the NL lead. They also equal the combined total of Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez, all of whom were expected to buoy the rotation alongside Mikolas.
But it was Mikolas who ended up as the lone Cardinals pitcher to stick in the rotation all season. In his first season back following a three-year stint in Japan, Mikolas reached the 200-innings benchmark with his 22nd out of the afternoon. He finished eight innings for the second time this year, doing so in 99 pitches. Behind him, Martinez sealed the team's 88th victory with his fifth save.
"We had a couple of games where we didn't have our best, so I knew if I could go out there and hopefully set the tone early that we'd play a solid game. And I think we did," Mikolas said. "I knew we had to win, so my goal was just to keep that game close as long as I could. Things worked out real well for us."
The Cubs' lone run off Mikolas was an unearned one that scored when neither Yairo Munoz nor Jose Martinez could catch a popup in shallow right field. Mikolas scattered four hits thereafter and never allowed another Chicago baserunner as far as third.
"The guy has been lights-out all year," Cubs starter Cole Hamels said of Mikolas. "He's been one of the best pitchers. He's great, and he delivered exactly what he's capable of doing and what they expected and what they needed. He made it tough for us."
The Cubs, who will be playing for a division title in Sunday's series finale, helped resuscitate the Cardinals' offense with free baserunners. A catcher's interference call put Matt Carpenter on to lead off the fourth. Carpenter moved up 90 feet with a walk and scored the tying run on a Paul DeJong single, the team's first hit off Hamels.
An inning later, Hamels opened the frame by hitting Harrison Bader and walking Munoz. Carpenter, hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, drove Bader in with a single. It gave the Cardinals their first lead since Monday.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Though Mikolas had just retired 13 of his previous 14 batters, he exited after eight innings and immediately received a handshake from Shildt. His afternoon was over. Shildt later explained that his decision to pull Mikolas after 99 pitches had several layers. He preferred not to push Mikolas past the eighth for just the second time in his career, nor have him face the Cubs' Nos. 2, 3 and 4 hitters for a fourth time. Also, the Cardinals had Martinez ready in the 'pen.
"He had done his job," Shildt said. "This guy just gave us eight innings, and you can push him. [But] we have a guy who is fresh who we're comfortable and confident can bring it home. And that's what he's down there for."
Martinez did just that, retiring the Cubs in order on five pitches.
The Cardinals improved to 10-8 against the Cubs this season, assuring them of their first winning season against Chicago since they went 11-8 in 2015. That was also the last year the Cards finished with a better record than the Cubs.
HE SAID IT
"I'm a big pitch-to-pitch, game-to-game guy, so to look back and see what I've accomplished this year, [it] has definitely been a season that I'll remember forever." -- Mikolas, after finishing with 18 wins, a 2.83 ERA and 200 2/3 innings in his first MLB season since 2014
Though the Cardinals are eliminated from postseason contention, the Cubs have plenty to play for on Sunday. They continue to wrestle with the Brewers for the NL Central title. Chicago will start Mike Montgomery (5-6, 3.99 ERA) in the regular-season finale. The Cardinals had announced rookie Jack Flaherty (8-8, 3.16 ERA) as their starter, though the club could make a late change given they are out of the postseason chase.
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.