St. Louis Cardinals Top games of 2019: Number one
By Matt Graves
The 2019 season was full of ups and downs for the St. Louis Cardinals but did have some big wins. What was the best game of the year?
The St. Louis Cardinals jumped back into the postseason in 2019 with a team that many thought had no chance to win the division. After being the best team in the entire league in April, the Cardinals fell flat on their faces in May with the worst month in franchise history.
All the while, no team took hold of first place in the NL Central and the Cardinals scratched and clawed to climb to the top of the division and hold their spot there until the season ended. Of course, the NLDS win over the Atlanta Braves was great but it was followed with a disappointing skunk in the NLCS sweep by the Washington Nationals.
We have now come to the end of our list and sadly, this final game was not against the Chicago Cubs. That would be because they didn’t make the postseason (HAH!). After the fun of the regular season ended, the Cardinals went to the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. I shouldn’t have to give any more hints about what the top game of 2019 was.
#1: Cardinals set records in Game 5 of the NLDS
Coming into the NLDS series against the Braves, I had two thoughts. One, there was relief that the Cardinals broke their three-year playoff drought and won the NL Central. Second, I knew the Cardinals had no chance to match the Braves if the series became an offensive shootout.
The Cardinals had a clear edge over the Braves’ pitching, but with the bats, the Braves had four starters with an OPS over .850 and the Cardinals had zero. After taking the first game in Atlanta, the Cardinals lost the second game in Atlanta when Mike Foltynewicz pitched the game of his life, outdueling Jack Flaherty.
Back in St. Louis, the Cardinals lost Game three when Carlos Martinez blew a one-run lead in the ninth. In Game 4, the Cardinals won because Freddie Freeman isn’t an inch taller and Yadier Molina poked a ball over his head then won the game with a sac fly.
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The series was getting a little chippy because of certain Braves players celebrating too much and it was shaping up to be a very exciting Game 5 with a rematch of the Game 2 starters, Flaherty and Foltynewicz.
While Flaherty didn’t have a bad game in his first NLDS start, his three runs over seven innings weren’t good enough to give the Cardinals the win. Foltynewicz’s scoreless seven innings were amazing. Too amazing to repeat sadly. What happened in Game 5 though was so far to the opposite that I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted it.
To open the game, Dexter Fowler walked and Kolten Wong, expecting runs to be at a premium, successfully sacrificed himself to get Fowler to second. After that, the next out would come 10 batters later when Paul Goldschmidt lined out. Between those two outs, the Cardinals hit zero homers, two singles, three doubles, took three walks, and ended the inning with 10 runs scored before Flaherty even threw a pitch.
This highlight is over six minutes long and is just from the top half of the first inning. Foltynewicz got just one out and the Braves bullpen scrambled but didn’t do much to put out the fire. This 10-run outburst was the postseason record for runs scored in a first inning and was about as far out fo left field as anyone could’ve ever guessed it would happen.
The Braves shot themselves in the foot with a couple of errors, but still the Cardinals fixed their approach against Foltynewicz and finished the job, slammed the door, killed any will to come back in the Braves. The Cardinals added another run in the second and then two more in the fourth before the Braves got on the board once in the fourth with a solo homer, but that was all they were going to get.
Flaherty pitched six innings and gave up just one run and four hits while striking out eight and then handed it to the bullpen leading to the Cardinals knocking off the Braves and going to the NLCS for the first time since 2014.
Here is the full-game highlights to see the Cardinals celebrate at the end.
In all, it was an unexpected but gladly welcomed finish to a hard-fought NLDS and seeing the energy and excitement in the team during and after this game was something that this team and the fans in St. Louis could just soak in and enjoy after three years of missing out on the fun.
Looking back, I think fans and players would’ve perfectly happy had the season ended right here as everything that came after this game was awful. But in a do-or-die game, the offense stepped up with a great approach and gameplan at the plate, the pitching and bullpen held strong, and it was overall as close to a perfectly executed game as you can get. That’s really hard to do in the pressure and wear and tear of the postseason and the guys came through.
I hope you enjoyed our list to wrap up 2019 and the year that the Cardinals had a bunch of ups and downs. There were other good games, but these were certainly among the best. You may disagree with the list, but getting to the NLCS for the first time since 2014 as a direct result of this game is a great way to cap off this year’s list. Here’s to even better games in 2020.