I love the work researcher Tom Orf does, but when he is “on assignment” and I have a burning question I cannot answer myself, it can be painful. Such it was on Thursday as I wondered how long it had been since the St. Louis Cardinals were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a now-unusual five-game series.
Fortunately, ESPN and the Elias Sports Bureau came to my rescue via this tweet:
@ESPNStatsInfo: 35th 5-game series b/t Pirates + Cardinals all-time. If Pirates win tonight, it would be 1st 5-game sweep of STL since June 1908 (Elias)
The stretch called out was from June 25-28, 1908 and included one double-header, same as the current set. A major difference was that the 1908 Cardinals were used to losing. The club was en route to a last-place 49-105 season.
In fact, the Cardinals-Pirates shoes were on the other feet compared to now, as 1908 marked St. Louis’ seventh-consecutive losing season. On the other hand, the Bucs were working on their 10th straight winning campaign and most of the same players would power them to their first World Series title the next year.
MLB.com’s Richard Justice expanded the current losing aperture to all Cardinals opponents:
@richardjustice: Cardinals need a win to avoid 5-game sweep vs Pirates. Last time, Cards were swept in 5-game series was a 6-gamer Sept 1916 at Polo Grounds.
As noted, the 1916 Cards were swept in a six-game series against the Giants from September 23-27, 1916 that included two double-headers. It was part of a dreadful 14-game losing skid that closed the season. The 1916 Cardinals finished 60-93. (Per Orf, it carried over into the first two games into the 1917 season, setting the team record of 16 consecutive losses.)
Justice also added the following, just for good measure:
@richardjustice: Last time Cardinals lost 6 in a row while scoring 2 runs or less in every game was August 1957
Here is the link to that stretch of losing ball. The Cards were in the midst of dropping nine straight to the Cubs and Braves. However, the 1957 Cardinals were a good club, going 87-67. They still finished in second place, eight games behind Red Schoendienst’s eventual World Champions from Milwaukee.
Per Cardinals media relations, the last time the team dropped seven in a row was from June 10-17, 2011. All is not lost as we all can remember how that season turned out – the 11th World Championship for St. Louis.
Update: I just heard from Tom, who added this:
“Of all 65 Cardinals losing streaks of seven games or more, the current one is second worst in runs per game (1.43), batting average (.183) and on-base percentage (.229).”