The Cardinals on Sunday needed a win over the Cubs at home or a Brewers loss to the Rockies to win the National League Central for 2019. As it turns out, St. Louis handled its own business, as they homered three times en route to a 9-0 win over the Cubs. Ace Jack Flaherty pitched seven shutout innings, which means he’s allowed a total of 12 runs over his last 16 starts heading into the playoffs.
The St. Louis win means that the Cardinals will advance to the National League Division Series against the Braves, who won the NL East. Game 1 is scheduled for Oct. 3 in Atlanta. The Brewers, meantime, will face Max Scherzer and the Nationals in the NL Wild Card Game on Tuesday.
The Cardinals end the regular season with a 91-71 record. This marks their first division title since 2015 and their first trip to the postseason since that same year. Overall, it’s the Cardinals’ 15th division title and 29th playoff appearance.
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This division championship comes in Mike Shildt’s first full season as manager.
St. Louis plodded along as a .500-ish team for some time, but a midsummer surge that saw them go a combined 34-18 in July and August carried them to the title.
This season, the Cardinals ranked just 11th in the NL in runs scored, but the pitching and defense more than made up for any deficits on offense. Specifically, the Cardinals ranked third in the NL in rotation ERA and third in bullpen ERA. As well, they finished second in the NL in Defensive Efficiency Rating, which is the percentage of balls in play that a defense converts into outs.
The Cardinals will likely enter their NLDS matchup with the Braves as modest underdogs, but they’ll still be able start Flaherty twice on full rest, should the series go five games. The Cardinals are seeking to win the World Series for the 12th time and for the first time since 2011.