It is most clear that the St. Louis Cardinals need to win a bunch of games in a hurry and hope the first-place Milwaukee Brewers (Central Division) or the Atlanta Braves (Wild Card) fall off a cliff.
At nine games behind the Brewers, the Cardinals are currently at a season-worst deficit.
I asked researcher Tom Orf to pull the pertinent details of the 22 prior seasons during which the Cardinals finished in first place. In this case, the focus is on the last day the team was NOT in first place – in other words, the next day, the Cards took over first for good.
In the good news department, in eight of the 22 years, the Cardinals did not take the lead for the final time until sometime in September. In a most interesting stat to me, only once did an eventual Cardinals first-place club take its final lead in August.
The other set of data, on the right side of the table, indicates the farthest those nine teams were out of first place in number of games at any time during August and September and at what date(s) they fell to their low-water point.
Three of the 22 clubs made it to the top after August/September deficits of nine games or more. The biggest comeback was from 12 games back on August 8, 1930, followed by 11 games on August 23, 1964 and 10 games on August 5, 1942.
No Cardinals team has even hit its low-water mark in the standings in September only to later reach first place. Manager Tony La Russa’s first Cardinals club in 1996 was closest. They had their season-worst deficit in the standings as late as August 31. However, they only had 2 ½ games to make up.
Cardinals first-place clubs, last day not in first place and furthest back in the standings during August/September
|Last day behind||Furthest Back In August/September|
|1996||0.5||2-Sep||2.5 GB||28-Aug to 31-Aug|
|1942||1||11-Sep||10.0 GB||4-Aug and 5-Aug|
|1930||0.5||13-Sep||12.0 GB||8-Aug (from 53-52 to 92-62)|
|1926||0.5||15-Sep||4.5 GB||1-Aug to 6-Aug|