After topping the Chicago Cubs in both games of a doubleheader, the St. Louis Cardinals have now matched the franchise record for consecutive wins in the modern era. The 1935 ballclub reeled off 14 straight wins as well. The Cardinals’ current winning streak began on September 11th, and has carried them into playoff position. The Cardinals opened the streak by taking the final two games of a series with the Cincinnati Reds. Since then, they have swept the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
Offense Drives Cardinals Winning Streak
The Cardinals have spent most of the year near the bottom of the National League in most offensive categories. By midsummer, many of the Cardinal faithful were calling for hitting coach Jeff Albert to be removed as the team languished around .500. Offensive production during the streak changed dramatically. Manager Mike Shildt made tweaks to the lineup. Most notably, he placed Paul Goldschmidt second, followed by Tyler O’Neill and then Nolan Arenado. Edmundo Sosa replaced Paul DeJong in the lineup. The result was good. Prior to the streak, the Cardinals were averaging 4.5 runs per game. Since the beginning of the streak they’ve averaged 6.6 runs per game. The Cardinals’ dominance in Friday’s doubleheader was symbolic of the offensive surge as the team bashed eight home runs and put up 20 runs across 14 innings.
The New MV3?
The Cardinals’ heart of the order is arguably the most formidable they’ve had since Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds intimidated pitching staffs. Goldschmidt has been the catalyst. If hitting is truly contagious, he caught the bug in August and has spread it throughout the lineup. Early in the season, the results simply weren’t there, but the advanced statistics said he would come around. And come around he did. On July 31st, Goldschmidt had a .269 batting average and a .788 OPS. He had driven in 55 runs and hit 17 home runs across 437 plate appearances. Coming into Friday’s doubleheader, he’s batted .341 with a 1.047 OPS in August and September. He’s driven in 42 runs and hit 13 home runs in 216 plate appearances during the 14-game stretch.
O’Neill has blossomed in the third spot in the lineup. He has a more disciplined approach at the plate and has not sacrificed any power in the process. His 5.4 WAR is second only to Goldschmidt on the team. His OPS leads the team and he reached the 30 home run mark for the first time in his career. While Arenado is having a pedestrian year at the plate by his standards, it’s been a solid year with great production as he was the first Cardinal to hit 30 home runs this season and has passed the 100 RBI mark as well.
A Change at Shortstop
Paul DeJong was supposed to be a cornerstone in the Cardinals’ lineup for years to come. His production has declined significantly since his All-Star 2019 campaign. His sub-.200 batting average and OPS+ of 85 left Shildt with no choice but to turn to Edmundo Sosa. Sosa has the better glove, but has also been a welcome surprise at the plate. He’s managed a 108 OPS+ and his 3.3 WAR is a significant improvement over DeJong.
Winning Streak Sustained by Strong Pitching
Leading up to the winning streak, the Cardinals’ staff was allowing 4.24 runs per game on the season. During the streak, they’ve only surrendered 3.14 runs per game. There have been very few bumps in the road as starters have been going deep, and the bullpen has been shutting down opponents. When they have faltered, the offense has given them plenty of breathing room. Jon Lester and J.A. Happ are exceeding expectations. Adam Wainwright has been a sorcerer. Miles Mikolas is showing signs of life. Even Jake Woodford has gotten in on the fun. Combine that with a retooled bullpen that has been stingy with runs, and it’s clear that more than just the Cardinals’ Devil Magic is carrying them to victory each night.
The Cardinals will have to beat the Cubs on Saturday to set a new modern era mark of 15 consecutive wins. They now have the longest winning streak of any team during the 2021 season.
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