The St. Louis Cardinals reported to 2015 spring training camp amid high expectations – both placed on them by others and by themselves. With the vast majority of the same players that won the National League Central Division the prior two seasons, the club was viewed by many as one of the favorites, along with the Nationals, Red Sox and Dodgers, to win it all.
It took winning an unprecedented battle to get there, however. The NL Central featured the three clubs with the best records in baseball, as the Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs exchanged blows down to the wire. All three clubs reached the post-season, taking turns eliminating each other, but none of them reached the World Series.
Through game eight of the 162-game regular-season schedule, the Cards had completed series against three division rivals – Chicago, Cincinnati and Milwaukee – and pulled into first place. From April 16 on, the Cardinals would never look back, though surges by the Cubs and Pirates kept St. Louis from clinching the division title until just three games remained.
St. Louis was the first team in MLB to secure a playoff spot, on September 19th, as manager Mike Matheny led his fourth club into the post-season in four years, a new MLB record. However, it took another 11 days, until September 30th, for the Cards to clinch the division.
Once again, pitching carried the flag for St. Louis in 2015. Despite offensive inconsistency, the extraordinary team mound showing powered the Cardinals to 100 wins, ten more than in 2014 and the most victories for the team in the last decade. St. Louis’ 2.94 team ERA was the lowest in the game since the Mets of 1988.
In my opinion, the combination of numerous injuries and the grueling battle to avoid the Wild Card that went down to the wire left the Cardinals with not enough fuel in the tanks to get past Chicago in the Division Series. As a result, an exceptional year ended in a disappointing manner after just one win in four post-season games.
The Cardinals won the marathon, but did not have enough left to prevail in the sprint that followed.
For a complete, in-depth recap of the Cardinals’ entire 2015 regular season, check out this article at The Cardinal Nation.
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