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Wild ride: The words behind the 17 wins as Cardinals clinch the wild card

Wild ride: The words behind the 17 wins as Cardinals clinch the wild card

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The night before the start of a historic streak no one could see coming, Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado popped into the postgame Zoom room after a loss and gave a confession.

“It’s hard to sit here and talk about the team ... when, individually I’m not doing a very good job," he said. "It’s hard to speak about those things when I’m not doing my job."

He tripled and homered the next day.

He hit the decisive home run the day after that.

The Cardinals have not lost since his comments.

The winning streak began with what several players called a "must win" against Cincinnati and gathered momentum in New York.

Looking back on those games through today's eyes reveal how a team started to flex each facet of its roster and how the coverage started to reveal players rising to the occasion. The Post-Dispatch, with at least one writer present at every Cardinals game even throughout the shortened 2020 season, covered Arenado's comments in Rick Hummel's game story for the next day's paper. At the same time, Hummel reported how to have a place in the wild-card race, the Cardinals needed to win four of six vs. the Reds and start cranking out series wins. His coverage outlined what had to happen.

This is the coverage of how it happened.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, is more than 16,000 words during a 17-game winning streak enough to capture history? Here, in chronological order, is the game coverage (gamers, in the press box lingo) from the Post-Dispatch's baseball writers for all 17wins in the record streak.

Peruse the excerpts or follow the links for the complete stories.

Sept. 11

Cardinals 6, Reds 4

Reds pitch to Arenado — and he makes them pay in 6-4 comeback win by Cardinals

"Nolan Arenado, who the night before had blamed himself for a lot of the Cardinals’ inconsistent offensive showing, tripled home a run in a two-run sixth and, with a base open in the eighth, was allowed to hit — and hit he did. Arenado lofted his 30th homer of the season, snapping a 4-4 tie and providing a 6-4 win over the Reds to even their showdown series at one game each, before a paid house of 33,404 Saturday night at Busch Stadium." — Rick Hummel (more...)

***

Sept. 12

Cardinals 2, Reds 0

Arenado delivers again as Cardinals inch closer in playoff chase with 2-0 win over Reds

"Manager Mike Shildt had said before Sunday’s game with Cincinnati that Cardinals slugger Nolan Arenado was about to go on a run, after Arenado’s triple and two-run homer in his final two at-bats on Saturday night. And then Arenado’s next at-bat, his first on Sunday, also resulted in a two-run homer.

"... A couple of weeks ago, it appeared obvious that the Cardinals had to win at least four of six games from the Reds over two series to stay relevant in the playoff chase. They won four of six.

"Now there is a horse race, although there hasn’t been much speed among the pace setters." — RH (more...)

***

Sept. 13

Cardinals 7, Mets 0

Cardinals swamp Mets, 7-0, send Wainwright to 16th win and close within a half game of NL wild-card

"Whether it’s sending the upstart Cardinals to the pennant as a 25-year-old closer or hoisting a club back to autumnal relevance as a 40-year-old starter, Adam Wainwright bending curves in Queens never gets old.

"The younger half of a pitching matchup for the aged, Wainwright spun six scoreless innings, ducked trouble thanks to his curveball in the first inning, and put the Cardinals on the brink of overtaking another team in the wild-card standings." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 14

Cardinals 7, Mets 6 (11)

Wild, Cards: Dazzling defense, timely hits carry Cardinals to frenetic extra-innings win vs. Mets

"The Cardinals exhausted every corner of their roster, needed every facet of their play, but the reward was a new view on this season.

"The win, the Cardinals’ sixth in seven games, vaulted them into the lead for the National League’s second wild card. ... The Cardinals are, for the first time in weeks, in control of their own playoff destiny.

"A race that's been stuck in reverse is now theirs to drive." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 15

Cardinals 11, Mets 4

Bright lights, bigger sweep: Surging Cardinals thump Mets, 11-4, to increase lead for NL's second wild card

"The Cardinals arrived from the Midwest late Sunday after a few solid performances back home, some strong starring roles that got lauded regionally, and had three days in the city, right as Broadway reopened, to seize what they craved — their big break.

"Written out of the playoff script just weeks ago and stuck in the wings as, at most, an extra, they made the most of their moment on the Citi stage and put on a show.

"They made it here. Can they make it anywhere?" — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 17

Cardinals 8, Padres 2

Mikolas posts first win in more than two years as Cardinals rough up Padres 8-2

"Miles Mikolas, who had sabotaged himself with opposition innings of three, four and four runs in his past three starts, found himself on the other side of it Friday night at Busch Stadium.

"The Cardinals righthander, after dispatching the San Diego Padres in order in the first inning, had a three-run lead the next time he went to the mound. He never relinquished it before coming out in the sixth as the Cardinals knocked off their sixth consecutive victory, 8-2, tying their season high for successive wins, before a paid house of 30,937.

"... Changing speeds adroitly, playing off his curveball, Mikolas pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings for his longest stint of the season, allowing just three hits." — RH (more...)

***

Sept. 18

Cardinals 3, Padres 2

O'Neill's two-run HR caps late rally as Cardinals win seventh in succession, 3-2, over Padres

"Although Wainwright did not gain the win or make it to 2,000 strikeouts for his career — he fell one short — the Cards continued on their appointed rounds.

"Tyler O’Neill’s two-run home run, his 28th of the season, capped a three-run eighth as the Cardinals, who had been chasing the Padres most of the night, posted a season-high seventh consecutive victory, 3-2, before a wildly enthusiastic paid gathering of 40,626, at Busch Stadium." — RH (more...)

***

Sept. 19

Cardinals 8, Padres 7

Cardinals win eighth in succession, separate wheat from wild-card chaff

"This weekend of play did a lot to separate contenders from pretenders in the competition for the National League’s second (and final) wild-card playoff spot. A late-season winning streak of eight games has a way of doing that." — RH (more...)

***

Sept. 20

Cardinals 5, Brewers 2

Cardinals keep rolling to ninth consecutive victory, stymie Brewers, 5-2, and claim Lester's 200th win

"Having already outfoxed the division-leading Brewers to help keep the Cardinals' present winning streak rolling and seizing some significant personal history, Jon Lester faced the final challenge of his evening.

"He had to fold his burly 6-foot-4 frame into a basket on wheels.

"Milestones as big and round as the 200th win of his career come with clubhouse celebrations, and those rites of suds sometimes mean wedging into a laundry cart for a wet whirl surrounded by teammates." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 21

Cardinals 2, Brewers 1

Hang 10: Cardinals steal their way to 10th consecutive win, pull off a trick in ninth inning to edge Brewers, 2-1

"Unable to forge much offensively against the Brewers other than a walk here and a few singles there, the Cardinals matched one of the rarest feats in the club’s rich history only when an increasingly resourceful lineup found another route for runs.

"They stole them.

"... And now they’re about to filch a wild-card playoff spot while everyone is looking." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 22

Cardinals 10, Brewers 2

Crank it up to 11: Cardinals win 11th consecutive, assure 14th straight winning season but Arenado leaves 10-2 rout after tarp tumble

"With an offense that has finally merged the aggressiveness to take an extra base with the assertiveness to slug for some too, the Cardinals pressed their blitz toward October as the hottest team in the majors. But within Wednesday’s rout came a cold shiver of concern.

"Take a breath.

"It involves a tarp." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 23

Cardinals 8, Brewers 5

Determined Dozen: Goldschmidt launches two homers, rallies Cardinals to sweep Brewers, win 12th straight

"It has been almost two weeks since the Cardinals looked up at the end of a game to see themselves on the downside of the score. In that time new roles have solidified, familiar swings have awakened, and the wild card race has become what happens when the old tortoise, so slow and steady all these months, realizes it can run like a hare.

"It’s been so long since they felt what it’s like to lose they have, evidently, forgotten how to do it." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 24

Cardinals 8, Cubs 5 (7)

Cardinals 12, Cubs 4 (7)

Streaking into history: Power-packed Cardinals dominate in doubleheader sweep of Cubs, match club record 14 consecutive wins

"All the greats who have come and gone and gone to Cooperstown as Cardinals and all the champions who have flocked in St. Louis in the past eight decades never experienced a moment like this.

"Stan Musial did more things than any Cardinals player ever has done or will ever do, and he never played on a team that did this." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 25

Cardinals 8, Cubs 5

‘New heroes every day’: Uncanny Cardinals come back, overpower Cubs for club-record 15th consecutive win

"When the final tag of that pivotal rundown was applied in the eighth inning Saturday and Nolan Arenado launched into the air to celebrate, all nine Cardinals were in the infield.

"They had all converged at the right time to their right places to allow the assertive, aggressive move and pull off, together, the incredible and unexpected." — DG (more...

***

Sept. 26

Cardinals 4, Cubs 2

Sweetest 16: Cardinals capitalize on Cubs’ gifts, dodge drama in ninth for 4-2 win, their 16th consecutive

"When a team hasn’t lost a game in weeks, it’s hardly fazed when it has to win one twice within a few minutes.

"The Cardinals’ 4-2 victory against the Cubs on Sunday extended their record winning streak to 16 consecutive and put themselves one win shy of securing the National League’s second (and final) wild-card playoff berth as the season starts its final week." — DG (more...)

***

Sept. 28

Brewers 2, Cardinals 6

Cardinals claim playoff spot, run winning streak to 17 consecutive with 6-2 win vs. Brewers

It took a winning streak longer and unlike any before in club history to get these Cardinals to the time of year when all Cardinals throughout history are ultimately measured.

A team that looked up and down its dugout, in and out of its clubhouse, and asked how could it not have a better record has unleashed its best baseball at the best possible time as the team to watch in the playoffs.  Led as usual by starter Adam Wainwright, the hottest team in the majors coolly claimed its place in the postseason by rallying to defeat Milwaukee 6-2 on Tuesday night at Busch Stadium. The win secured the National League’s second (and final) wild-card berth, inspired a champagne celebration in the clubhouse that spilled onto the field, and extended the club-record winning streak to 17 games. — DG (more ...)

-30-

Editor's note: This story was originally published on the afternoon of Sept. 28, and updated with the Cardinals' 17th win and clinching the wild-card slot.

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