One thing that has not changed during the course of the 2014 season for the St. Louis Cardinals is the close nature of their games. Through Wednesday, game 132, the Cardinals have experienced 44 one-run games, or exactly one of every three.
Those 44 of the tightest contests possible this year to date are more than the team’s total in three of the last seven entire seasons. Continuing on the current pace, the 2014 Cardinals would finish the regular season with 54 one-run games. That total would exceed any single season for St. Louis back to at least 2006.
|2014 pace for 162 games||54||29-25||0.537||6-5|
|2014 thru 132 games||44||24-20||0.545||5-4|
(The team’s extra-innings record is included in the above table for another point of reference. It does not directly correlate to one-run games, but was mentioned below.)
The frequency of these close contests has increased in recent days for St. Louis. In the last two weeks, over half of the 13 Cardinals games played, seven, have been decided by a lone run.
Overall, the Cardinals winning percentage in one-run games this season is .545. That compares positively to their .534 (47-41) mark in contests decided by two or more scores.
With all the nail-biters, I have been waiting to ask Cardinals manager Mike Matheny his view. I had that opportunity this past weekend.
Matheny opened with an acknowledgment of the situation, but as one would expect, he views it through a positive aperture.
“We’ve had more than our share of close games this season,” the manager agreed. “The year has been a character builder.”
Realizing that it is a spectrum, not an on-off matter, I still quizzed Matheny on whether he sees a point in a long season when the learning is lessened and the close games become more and more of a grind.
“There is no point where one ends and the other begins,” he replied. “Every close game is a grind, but you develop toughness at the same time.
“You can’t get to where one-run games are all of the sudden no longer a grind, because they are. If you are not grinding in those one-run games, in those close games, those extra-inning games, then you are probably going to end up on the back side,” Matheny asserted.
I suggested an ideal would be to score more often and build larger leads.
“That is the nature of it,” the skipper concluded. “It is what we are in the middle of.”
As an important point of reference, at the time of the discussion, the Cards were 8-2 in their prior ten games, having increased their scoring by 1.5 runs per game over their prior league-lowest rate. (Details here.)
In the four contests since, the offensive futility has returned. St. Louis scored just seven runs in total while dropping three of the final four games to conclude their 2-4 road trip through Pennsylvania.
Still unanswered for me is whether all these close games will eventually help the 2014 Cardinals win in the pressure of October or will have helped to wear them down. To be honest, no matter what happens, we will never know.