One year ago today, August 14, was a milestone, albeit an unpleasant one, for the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals. It marked the last time that edition of the Cardinals held even a share of first place.
As many of the team’s fans painfully recall, last season’s Cardinals went into a late-season nosedive. From August 14 through September 15, the team won just nine of 30 games and the resulting swing in the standings was nine games, from one up to eight down.
The responsibility was shared.
The offense scored three or fewer runs 17 times during the swoon. The team lost 16 of those contests.
Aces Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter seemed to run out of gas. Over nine starts between August 14 and September 25, Carpenter went 2-6 with one no-decision and a 4.60 ERA. Between August 18 and September 14, Wainwright went 1-5 with a 4.73 ERA.
With St. Louis already eliminated from the Wild Card chase, the Cincinnati Reds finally clinched the NL Central on September 28. Obviously, the Cardinals’ season had been lost long before that.
The record indicates that the 2010 Cardinals finished at 86-76, ten games over .500, just five games behind Cincinnati. However that was buoyed by a season-closing 9-2 stretch in what was essentially garbage time.
The current Cardinals are 64-56, five games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central Division battle and six games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card standings.
While there is still time for a change of lead horses in the 2011 race, I thought it would be interesting to review the last date various Cardinals teams owned at least a share of first place.
For seven consecutive seasons, from 2000 through 2006, the Cardinals were in first place during at least part of the month of September in every year.
Since then, it has been a much different story.
In the almost five years since the 2006 World Championship trophy was hoisted into the air, the only time the Cardinals spent a day in first place after August 14 was during their division-winning 2009 season.
St. Louis Cardinals, last date in first place, final standings, 1996-2011
|Season||Last date in 1st||Finished||Games +/-|
|2010||8/14||2nd place||5 behind|
|2009||10/4||1st place||7.5 ahead|
|2008||5/25||2nd place||4.5 behind|
|2007||never||3rd place||7 behind|
|2006||10/1||1st place||1.5 ahead|
|2005||10/2||1st place||11 ahead|
|2004||10/3||1st place||13 ahead|
|2003||9/1||3rd place||3 behind|
|2002||9/29||1st place||13 ahead|
|2001||10/7||T-1st place||tied (Wild Card)|
|2000||10/1||1st place||10 ahead|
|1999||4/29||4th place||21.5 behind|
|1998||4/15||3rd place||19 behind|
|1997||7/4||4th place||11 behind|
|1996||9/29||1st place||6 ahead|
|* thru 8/13|