PITTSBURGH • Fittingly, it a took a replacement to clinch the division.
A season defined as much by the wins the Cardinals collected as the players they lost to injury along the way culminated Wednesday night with Tyler Lyons' exceptional start against the Pittsburgh Pirates. One win against Pittsburgh away from claiming their third consecutive National League Central crown, the Cardinals received seven shutout innings from a lefty who just a week ago was trying to prove himself as a reliever.
Thrust into a start as a replacement for injured righthander Carlos Martinez, Lyons sped through the Pirates on the way to a 11-1 drubbing.
Bring on the bubbly.
The Cardinals, already in the postseason for the fifth consecutive season, secured a spot in the division series. They will face the winner of the Pirates-Cubs wild card game next Wednesday. The Cardinals will have home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs, should they advance to a fifth consecutive NL championship series.
The win Wednesday -- part of a split doubleheader -- was the Cardinals' 100th of the season. They are the first team in baseball to win 100 games since the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies.
This is the ninth time in club history that the Cardinals have won 100.
Lyons faced the minimum through 6 2/3 innings thanks to two double plays. He held the Pirates to two hits, both singles, and did not allow a single baserunner to reach second base safely in his seven innings.
Jason Heyward backed Lyons with a grand slam in the third inning. He reached base three times in his first four plate appearances, and he had two catches to aid Lyons. One was a diving snare of a sinking liner, and then in the fifth inning he fell against the 21-foot high right field wall to steal extra bases away from Michael Morse.
Matt Carpenter scored three runs, walked twice, and had a triple and a double.
Heyward's grand slam puts Cards on their way to division title
A grand slam barred the Cardinals from clinching the division earlier in the day Wednesday.
A grand slam has them in position to do so Wednesday night.
Cardinals right fielder Jason Heyward, one of the constants for the club this season, lasered a home run to right-center field for a grand slam in the third inning of the night game at PNC Park. Heyward's second career grand slam put the Cardinals ahead 6-0 through three innings.
The Cardinals, downed 8-2 in the first game of the doubleheader, struck first and struck often in the early innings of the night game.
Matt Carpenter opened with a triple off Pirates' starter Charlie Morton, and he scored on a double play ball for a 1-0 lead. Instead of slipping free of the inning, Morton let the Cardinals have a bit more. Heyward singled, and then he scored on Matt Adams' double into the right-field corner.
Two innings later, the Cardinals loaded the bases before Heyward got to the plate. Morton was no longer on the mound when he did. Carpenter again sparked the rally with a double to lead off the third inning. Morton hit Jon Jay with a pitch for the second time in the game, and then a walk to Jhonny Peralta loaded the bases. The Pirates, facing elimination from the division race with a loss, went immediately to the bullpen.
Lefty Bobby LaFromboise was brought in to face Heyward.
The Cardinals' outfielder turned on the fourth pitch he saw for his 13th homer of the season. Heyward last hit a grand slam in August 2011.
Grichuk, Adams set to work night shift against Pittsburgh
The lopsided score of the afternoon game at PNC Park allowed manager Mike Matheny to remove catcher Tony Cruz and save him some innings for the night game while also getting a chance to continue to process of getting returning players ready for full-game action.
In the night game, it's Randal Grichuk's and Matt Adams' turn.
Both players, returning from different maladies, are in the starting lineup for the night cap of a two-game set against the chasing Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates won the first game, 8-2, to cut the Cardinals' lead down to three games with four games to play in the regular season. A win in the game and the Cardinals clinch their third consecutive National League Central division title.
Grichuk starts in left field, where Matt Holliday played the entire first game. Holliday, coming back from a quad tear, will be available to pinch hit if needed during the night game. Adams, coming back from a quad tear, starts at first base against the Pirates' Charlie Morton, a righthander.
Remaining in the starting lineup for the second game are Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay, Jhonny Peralta, Jason Heyward, Kolten Wong and catcher Tony Cruz. Cruz had two doubles in the first game of the day and was removed halfway through to save some innings for him to play tonight. Jay remains in the lineup ahead of Tommy Pham ... for reasons mostly related to the favorable matchup manager Mike Matheny said he has against the Pirates' pitchers and for wanting to reward him for his role on Monday's game. Pham has eight strikeouts in his past 14 at-bats -- a trend that has apparently led to his sudden absence from lineup.
And here the lineup is:
1. Carpenter, 3B
2. Jay, CF
3. Peralta, SS
4. Heyward, RF
5. Adams, 1B
6. Grichuk, LF
7. Wong, 2B
8. Cruz, C
9. Lyons, P
Check back throughout the evening here at C-Beat and StlToday.com for news and notes from the ballpark. The results and some quotes from the first game of the day is posted in the file immediately before this one.