As the 2021 season nears its final weekend, much of the baseball world is focused on the five-team AL wild-card race, and for good reason. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals are putting together an incredibly impressive winning streak that has vaulted them into the second NL wild-card spot and turned them into a legitimate contender.
With the streak sitting at 16 games (and having won 18 of 19 games), the Cardinals now have the longest win streak in baseball since Cleveland’s 22-game win streak in 2017, which set the American League record. This also marks the longest win streak in franchise history.
As you might expect, the Cardinals are winning by playing complete baseball. They are boosted by a red-hot offense led at the moment by Paul Goldschmidt, who is hitting .383/.472/.850 with seven home runs, seven doubles and 16 RBIs during the win streak. But he’s certainly not alone in having a scorching bat, as Tyler O’Neill is also hitting a robust .313 with seven home runs and 21 RBIs during this stretch, while the rest of the team is certainly carrying its weight.
As far as the pitching staff goes, the Cardinals are more loaded than you might expect, given the injuries they’ve been dealing with on that front. Adam Wainwright, 40, has dipped himself in the fountain of youth and is having his best season since he finished third in the Cy Young voting in 2014. Wainwright has a 3.05 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 31 starts (200 innings) to go along with a 127 ERA+.
The rest of the staff has certainly pitched great, with Kwang Hyun Kim, John Gant, Jake Woodford and the recently returned Miles Mikolas solidifying the rotation. Jon Lester and J.A. Happ, acquired at the trade deadline, have settled in with the Cardinals as well.
And now, the Cardinals’ pitching could receive an even bigger boost in the postseason with the potential returns of Opening Day starter Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, who has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
It’s unclear how they might be used in the playoffs, though it will most likely be as openers or long relievers, but having them in any capacity – should the Cardinals make it past the wild-card round – would be huge.
So, that 16-game win streak is great and all, but the real question at this point is: How might a win streak like this translate to the postseason for the Cardinals?
Going back to the Cleveland Indians, their record-breaking 22-game win streak lasted until mid-September. That team certainly felt loaded, with essentially the same roster that took the Chicago Cubs to Game 7 of the World Series in 2016. But even with the tailwind of that win streak, and the team certainly peaking at the right time, Cleveland fell flat against the Yankees in the playoffs and were ousted in the ALDS.
A regular season win streak just isn’t something we can use to predict any postseason success – but it sure doesn’t hurt to be this hot going into things. The fact is, while the win streak guarantees the Cardinals will be playing playoff baseball again, they will still be facing off in the one-game playoff against either the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants.
Then, if the Cardinals win the wild-card game, they’ll have to play the other one of those two teams in the divisional series. Good luck!
But right now, it feels as if there is any team that can pull it off, it would be the St. Louis Cardinals. You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that has been more consistent over the past 20 years, and they’ve got all the pieces they need to make yet another deep October run.