St. Louis Cardinals fans have been blessed with a successful organization for most of the team’s history. However, the new millennium marked a shift in culture, a new era for the historic franchise. Every Cardinals team following the 1982 World Series title had been clouded by both close calls and mediocre finishes. However, the hiring of GM Walt Jocketty in 1994 and manager Tony La Russa in 1996 turned the tide of Cardinals baseball as the new century came about.
Over the last 20 seasons, Cardinal fans have been around for 13 playoff appearances, four pennants and two championships. The club has made its mark in the postseason with numerous comebacks and upset victories, especially with two heavy underdog teams in 2006 and 2011. On the other hand, many of the juggernaut, division-winning Cardinal teams of the new millennium have fallen short.
This raises the question: which Cardinals team was truly the best of them all? Using the well-renowned, detailed game simulator from whatifsports.com, we will make our own Cardinals 21st Century Postseason. Seeding is based on both regular season and postseason performance, as well as spacing years apart (i.e, trying to avoid an early matchup between ‘04 and ‘05).
Wild Card Round
2012 vs. 2015 (Kyle Lohse vs. John Lackey)
The high-powered 2015 Cardinals team jumps on Kyle Lohse early. They put up three runs in the first inning, punctuated by a Jhonny Peralta two-run homer. Veteran John Lackey goes 8 strong innings, allowing just two runs. Back-to-back RBI singles from Yadier Molina and Tommy Pham stretch 2015’s lead to 6-2 in the 8th inning and they eventually win 6-3 to move on to the Division Series.
2000 vs. 2014 (Rick Ankiel vs. Lance Lynn)
Matt Holliday goes deep in the top of the 1st off Ankiel to give 2014 a 1-0 lead early. The lead is stretched to 4-1 on a two-run Jhonny Peralta double in the 3rd. The 2014 bullpen runs into some trouble late, with Trevor Rosenthal loading the bases and allowing Edgar Renteria to cut the lead to 4-2 with a single in the 9th. However, Seth Maness comes in and gets Jim Edmonds to fly out with the bases loaded. 2014 moves on with a 4-2 win and will face the 2011 squad in the Division Series.
2005 vs. 2013
In Game 1, Chris Carpenter continues his legacy of postseason dominance with seven shutout innings. Early run-scoring doubles from Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein are all the ’05 Cardinals team needs, and they cruise to a 5-0 win.
Game 2 sees veteran Jeff Suppan square off against rookie phenom Michael Wacha. The 2013 offense makes up for their lack of production in Game 1 with 6 early runs, knocking out Suppan after 1 ⅔ innings. However, three-run 4th and 6th innings from the ‘05 squad ties it up at 6. So Taguchi scores on a sac fly to take a 7-6 lead in the 9th. However, a walk-off three-run blast in the bottom half from Matt Holliday wins the game and ties the series at one apiece.
In Game 3, the ‘13 offense continues to beat up ‘05 pitching, torching Mark Mulder for 7 earned runs on the way to an easy 12-4 win. The ‘05 Redbirds get a clutch pitching performance from Game 4 starter Matt Morris, going 8 scoreless innings with just 98 pitches. An early solo homer from Jim Edmonds and an RBI single from Mark Grudzielanek is all he needs on the way to force Game 5 with a 2-0 win.
Carpenter and Adam Wainwright square off again in the decisive Game 5. Wainwright is greeted with 3 runs in the top of the 1st, and Carpenter again dominates, to the tune of 8 scoreless innings, striking out seven with no walks. 2005 completes the comeback with a 5-1 victory and is on to the Championship Series.
2002 vs. 2006
In Game 1, two home runs off the bat of J.D. Drew get ‘02 out to a 5-0 lead. That margin is more than enough for veteran Woody Williams, who goes seven shutout frames, allowing just 4 hits. ‘06 leaves runners in scoring position four innings in a row, and ‘02 walks away with a 6-0 win.
To start Game 2, Andy Benes faces off against Jeff Suppan, who goes seven strong innings and allows only one run to score. Early RBI hits from Aaron Miles and Chris Duncan give ‘02 a 3-1 lead. Jason Isringhausen closes the door in the 9th to tie the series at 1-1.
In Game 3, the ‘02 offense jumps on the young Anthony Reyes early. They put up a four-run bottom of the 1st, with homers from Tino Martinez and the newly acquired Scott Rolen. Matt Morris turns in a solid performance, going seven innings with two runs allowed. ‘02 wins 7-2 and takes a 2-1 series lead.
Chris Duncan starts Game 4 off with a bang, going deep for three runs off of Darryl Kile. However, fourth-inning RBIs from Kile, Drew, and Edgar Renteria give ‘02 a 5-4 lead. Soon after, A Scott Rolen solo shot in the 8th stretches the lead to 6-4, and the dominant Isringhausen turns in a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the series win.
2004 vs. 2015
Chris Carpenter and John Lackey square off in a great pitcher’s duel in the series opener. Carpenter goes 8 strong innings, with just one run on a Mark Reynolds solo homer. With the game tied at 1-1 in the 5th, Mike Matheny brings home Reggie Sanders with an RBI double to take the lead. Isringhausen shuts the door in the 9th, and ‘04 takes a 1-0 series lead.
In Game 2, the offense for both clubs comes back, as ‘15 puts up 8 in the 8th to take a 12-5 lead. Right after, In the bottom half, ‘04 brings in 5 runs thanks to back-to-back homers from Edmonds and Albert Pujols to make it 12-10. In the 9th, Trevor Rosenthal loads the bases and walks in a run to make it a one-run game. He is replaced by Matt Belisle, who gets Scott Rolen to line out for the narrow 12-11 victory. The series is tied at one apiece.
Game 3 is tied at 3-3 after early runs from both sides until Pujols hits one out to center field to take a 4-3 lead. ‘15 has runners on the corners with nobody out in the bottom half, but can’t capitalize. An Edmonds grand slam stretches the lead to 8-3, and ‘04 takes Game 3 8-4 to lead the series 2-1.
In Game 4, Jeff Suppan turns in a great performance, going seven innings with no earned runs and nine strikeouts. Down 8-2 in the 9th, the 2015 offense musters three runs off a young Dan Haren. However, Jason Tavarez comes in and gets Jhonny Peralta to ground out to finish off the series with an 8-5 victory.
2011 vs. 2014
2011 gets out to an early lead in Game 1 with a two-run single from Lance Berkman. Albert Pujols stretches the lead to 5-1 with a homer in the 5th. A rally in the bottom half of the 9th cuts the lead down to one, but Jason Motte relieves the tiring Fernando Salas and gets a Matt Carpenter flyout to escape with the 5-4 win.
2014 starts hot in Game 2, as Matt Carpenter drives in Kolten Wong with a double in the top of the 1st. Oscar Taveras hits two home runs to give ‘14 a 5-0 lead. Wainwright goes eight solid innings with two runs allowed, and Rosenthal finishes it off for the save to tie the series.
In Game 3, a strong outing from Michael Wacha(7 IP, 0 R, 5 Ks), as well as multiple three-run innings off Jaime Garcia, lead 2014 to an easy 6-0 win. That offense keeps on rolling in Game 4, with Matt Adams going deep off Edwin Jackson to take a 2-0 lead in the 1st. An 8th-inning rally increases the lead to 10-0, and the underdog 2014 squad moves on to the Championship Series with a 10-2 win.
2004 vs. 2002
In the series opener, John Mabry gets the ‘04 offense going with a 2-run blast in the bottom of the 1st. Chris Carpenter cruises with that 2-0 lead through most of the game. However, an Albert Pujols home run in the 9th ties it at 2-2. In the bottom half, ‘02’s Dave Veres walks the bases loaded and has to be relieved by Isringhausen. After an 8-pitch battle, Tony Womack bloops a single into left for a walk-off win and a 1-0 series lead. In Game 2, a 2nd-inning rally gets ‘02 out to a 3-0 lead. J.D. Drew goes deep twice off Jason Marquis, and ‘02 cruises to a 6-0 win to tie the series.
Game 3 sees veteran righties Jeff Suppan and Matt Morris square off with the series tied. After a Jim Edmonds RBI double in the 3rd, ‘04’s Reggie Sanders ties it back up with a run-scoring groundout. Clutch hits from Pujols and Scott Rolen gives ‘04 a 4-1 lead in the 8th. Given a two-run 9th-inning lead, Isringhausen closes the door for a 4-2 win.
After the 2004 squad takes an early 4-0 lead in Game 4, ‘02’s prospects are dim. But they slowly cut into the lead, and a Scott Rolen RBI single ties it at 4 in the 8th. Rolen drives in Pujols with a double in the 10th to walk it off, and ties the series 2-2.
A 4th-inning Rolen grand slam knocks out Woody Williams and gives ‘04 a 4-1 lead in Game 5. Chris Carpenter limits the ‘02 offense to one run in seven innings, and they take the win 7-3 with the series heading back home. In Game 6, Andy Benes gets drilled early, surrendering seven runs in 4 ⅓ innings. A solid start from Marquis and strong relief lead ‘04 to a 12-2 win. They will face the winner of 2005 vs. 2014 in the World Series.
2005 vs. 2014
The 2005 squad starts the series off with a bang, scoring 6 off Adam Wainwright in the first two innings. Chris Carpenter turns in another solid start, going 6 innings with 2 earned. Alberto Reyes finishes off the ‘14 lineup in the 9th for a 7-3 win in Game 1.
In Game 2, a 6th-inning three-run double from Kolten Wong gives ‘14 a 3-2 lead late. Scott Rolen responds in the bottom half with a two-run single to take the lead 4-3. The typically reliable Isringhausen suffers his first blown save of the postseason, allowing a solo shot from Matt Holliday to tie it at 4-4. However, he is bailed out when Larry Walker brings home Reggie Sanders with a sac fly to walk it off 5-4 in 10. ‘05 leads the series 2-0.
In Game 3, ‘05 puts together a 4-run 3rd off Michael Wacha. Mark Mulder doesn’t need anything more, as he goes eight strong innings with one run allowed. Scott Rolen stays hot with 3 hits and 4 RBIs, and they cruise to a 6-1 win.
In Game 4, Kolten Wong and Matt Carpenter string together hits to take a 3-2 lead in the 7th. Right after, Mark Grudzielanek ties it back up with a solo homer in the 8th. In the top of the 10th, Yadier Molina hits a three-run bomb to give ‘05 a 6-3 lead, just three outs away. Wong leads off the bottom half with a homer, but Randy Flores gets the next three in order to finish off the series in a 4-0 sweep.
2004 vs. 2005
Games 1 & 2 (@2004)
In the World Series opener, Jim Edmonds gets the ‘04 offense going with a three-run blast off Jeff Suppan in the 1st. Soon after, Chris Carpenter helps himself out with an RBI single in the 2nd, and the lead is 4-1. After So Taguchi cuts it to 4-2 with a solo homer in the 8th, ‘04 responds quickly. A two-run double from Rolen and an RBI single from Edgar Renteria makes it a 7-1 game. The ‘04 bullpen allows a run but finishes off the 7-2 win.
Taguchi continues to produce in Game 2, giving ‘05 a 2-0 lead with a single in the 3rd. Immediately after, Edmonds walks in a run to make it a one-run game but is stranded in the 4th. Scott Rolen stretches the ‘05 lead to 5-2 with a three-run blast in the 5th, and they cruise to an 8-2 win to even the series.
Games 3-5 (@2005)
Game 3 sees a pitching duel between Woody Williams and Mark Mulder last into the 6th when Mulder loads the bases and walks in a run. He is replaced by Alberto Reyes, who gives up a backbreaking grand slam to Larry Walker, and ‘04 takes a 7-3 lead. Once again the ‘04 bullpen does its job, and they win easily 11-3.
After ‘05 jumps out to an early 3-0 lead in Game 4, ‘04 responds. Back-to-back homers from Edmonds and Mike Matheny take the lead back 4-3. David Eckstein gives ‘05 the lead again in the 6th with a two-run single, but Isringhausen can’t close it out, giving up a game-tying solo homer to John Mabry. However, Dan Haren loses control in the bottom of the 10th and beans Albert Pujols with the bases loaded. ‘05 wins 6-5 and evens the series at two apiece.
Chris Carpenter and Jeff Suppan face off again in Game 5, and both pitch brilliantly. After an early run from each side, the game is knotted at 1 all the way through seven innings. Scott Rolen and Edgar Renteria double off Randy Flores, giving ‘04 a 4-1 lead in the 8th. Kiko Calero closes it out, and ‘04 is a win away from the title.
Games 6-7 (if necessary) (@2004)
An early rally from ‘04 in Game 6 puts them up 4-0. Jason Marquis pitches the game of his life, going 7 ⅓ stellar innings with just 3 hits and a run on 89 pitches. ‘05 gets one run in on an Eckstein RBI single, but it is too little, too late. Julian Tavarez gets John Rodriguez to ground out to 1st for the championship.
Winner: 2004 St. Louis Cardinals
Sources: whatifsports.com, Baseball-Reference
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