'Got to keep it going': Cards win 10th straight

Strong performances by Woodford, bullpen key St. Louis’ crafty victory

September 22nd, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- It wasn’t an easy day for the Cardinals’ bats matched up with Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff on Tuesday night, as evidenced by the fact that they put just three runners on base and struck out 10 times in Woodruff’s six innings of work.

The lineup started so slow that it wasn’t until Jake Woodford’s first at-bat in the top of the third that St. Louis got its first hit. But like so many games in recent weeks, the Redbirds figured out a way to win.

Tommy Edman scored the Cardinals’ first run and later knocked in the other, Woodford set the tone with five scoreless innings, and Alex Reyes, Génesis Cabrera, Luis García and Giovanny Gallegos allowed just one run over the next four innings to lead St. Louis to its 10th straight win in the 2-1 victory over Milwaukee at American Family Field.

The win keeps a firm grasp on the second National League Wild Card spot for the Cardinals, as their lead over the Reds increased to four games after Cincinnati lost to Pittsburgh earlier in the night, and the Redbirds’ magic number is now down to eight to clinch a postseason berth.

On a historical level, St. Louis’ 10-game winning streak is the longest stretch since the Redbirds had a pair of double-digit streaks in 2001 (an 11-game streak from Aug. 9-19 and a 10-game stretch from May 7-17). The win also marks the Cardinals’ 81st of the year, giving them an active streak of 14 straight seasons without a losing record -- and their next win would make it 14 consecutive winning seasons.

When asked what that statistic meant about the club, part of manager Mike Shildt’s answer was dedicated to naming some of the players -- like Albert Pujols and Chris Carptenter -- who have walked in and out of the organization over those 14 years but still helped push St. Louis to success year after year.

“Guys who have a heart and bleed Cardinal Red, you know?” he said. “That not only had their moments to sustain that organizational success but are very intentional about passing on to the next group.”

Though the Cardinals certainly appreciate those who came before them in the organization, Tuesday’s win was about celebrating another massive night for the current players.

Players like Woodford, who despite getting just one run and three hits of support while he was on the mound, went out and put together the best start of his big league career as he tossed five scoreless innings, yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out five.

Players like Edman, who walked, stole second base and scored on a sacrifice fly in the opening frame, and later knocked in Lars Nootbaar for the eventual game-winning run in the top of the eighth.

Players like Gallegos, who allowed the Brewers to load the bases in a one-run game in the bottom of the ninth, only to reward his manager’s vote of confidence by getting a swinging strikeout to end the game. 

“Really, it's just about a group of players that believe and have believed in themselves,” Shildt said. “Believed in the process, believed in the competition, the preparation and believed in each other.”

“The morale is great, given the 10-game winning streak and having been playing really well,” Edman said. “Obviously, we got to keep it going. We got some teams behind us that we know can get hot, so we can't let up, and hopefully we can just put those other teams away in the next week or so.” 

The obvious goal for St. Louis is to finish the regular season with the Wild Card spot in hand. There’s also the small note that the Cardinals are now just four wins away from matching the franchise-record 14-game win streak set by the 1935 club. 

Regardless of the goal, big or small, each of the players are trying to achieve, it hasn’t been hard to find the motivation to go after it lately. 

“Seeing the guys go out there and have success definitely gives you that little extra sense of urgency to go out there and compete,” Woodford said. “But this is September baseball. You don't really need a whole lot more to get you going than that.”