The St. Louis Cardinals got hot at the right time and enter their second-to-last series of the 2021 season on a 16-game winning streak in good position to clinch the second National League wild card spot.
St. Louis catcher Andrew Knizner scored the go-ahead run on Chicago Cubs pitcher Codi Heuer’s wild pitch in the ninth inning to give the Cards their latest win Sunday, 4-2.
“We did the little things, the little things that help you win games,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said.
The little things have helped the Cardinals win most of their games down the stretch. St. Louis is 20-6 in September and hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 10. Six of the wins during the streak have been by two runs or less.
The winning streak has helped the Cardinals get into the second wild card spot, where they have stayed. The team was four games behind the Reds in the win column after their Sept. 10 game. Everything has changed since.
Behind Paul Goldschmidt, Harrison Bader, Nolan Arenado and pitching performances from veterans like Adam Wainwright and Jon Lester, St. Louis is in control of its own destiny. The Cardinals will clinch a wild card spot with a win and losses by the Reds and Philadelphia Phillies.
St. Louis could either face the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco Giants in the single-game elimination.
Knizner said the team is focused.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, second from right, talks with shortstop Paul DeJong, left, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, second from left, and catcher Andrew Knizner, right, as they wait for relief pitcher Andrew Miller during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
“We’re really locked in,” he said, via MLB.com. “We’re playing good baseball, we’re playing all the way through the ninth inning until the last pitch.
“We never feel like we’re out of the game, and I think when you look at the entirety of the season, I think we played good baseball. We just had to put all phases together. I think finally, now, maybe at the most important time of the season, we’re putting everything together.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Cardinals joined the 1887 Philadelphia Quakers as the only major league teams in history to win their final 11 road games or more in a season.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, left, congratulates Paul Goldschmidt after Goldschmidt’s solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs in Chicago, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
The Cardinals begin a series with the NL Central champion Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday and wrap up the season against the Cubs next weekend.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.