The Cardinals showed glimmers of hope on Monday night in Baltimore against the Orioles, and even held a 5-3 lead as late as the fifth inning. However, the wheels fell off and the Orioles scored eight unanswered runs, defeating the Cardinals, 11-5.
And with that loss, the Cardinals' streak of 15 consecutive winning seasons was officially snapped.
The Cardinals fell to 63-81 on the season, ensuring that the best they can do this year is finish with a .500 record. It's certainly been a long time since the Cardinals had a season in which they didn't finish above .500.
Their last such season was 2007. That was also the last time they had a losing season. They went 78-84 and finished in third place in the NL Central on the heels of their 2006 World Series championship.
In order to avoid that, they'll have to win all the rest of their games, which is highly unlikely. The last holdover from that 2007 team, Adam Wainwright gets the start tonight as he continues his quest for 200 wins, and time is running out for him to secure that milestone.
We discussed the 2007 season in a recent post and what that year entailed for the Cardinals. Injuries and pitching struggles plagued the Cardinals that year, yet there were glimmers of hope as they even had a winning record as late as September 7.
Unfortunately, the team collapsed and fell short of .500. But that season feels like a dream compared to what the Cardinals have slogged through this year.
The Cardinals enter tonight's game with an elimination number of two in the NL Central and six in the Wild Card race. It's only a matter of time now before the Cardinals will officially be eliminated from postseason contention for the first time since September of 2018.
The Cardinals have reached the postseason in each of the four years following, but that streak is also going to end.
Pitching, or lack thereof is what killed the Cardinals' hopes this season. It's been well documented that pitching wasn't addressed last offseason and that it will need to be the central focus of this offseason.
Who they will target is ultimately up for debate, but one can expect the 2024 team to have much better pitching and a completely different look by the time spring training rolls around.
We can only hope that they'll learn from the mistakes of 2023. But for now, they're going to have to live with the results. The Cardinals had 15 straight winning seasons from 2008-2022, reaching the postseason in 10 of those seasons which included a World Series title, two National League pennants, six NL Central titles, and five appearances in the NLCS.
Perhaps a season like this is what the Cardinals need to wake up and realize that the rest of the NL Central has truly caught up to them. Gone are the days when the Cardinals were a baseball powerhouse and perennial World Series contender. It's going to take a major overhaul for the Cardinals to bring back those glory days.
For now, the Cardinals will have to soak in the reality of their long streak being snapped. Their streak of non-losing seasons also won't be alive for much longer. They are on pace to shatter their dubious mark from the 2007 season. This season has been more akin to the 1978 campaign, when they finished with a record of 69-93.
2023 has been a nightmare for Cardinals fans, but the City of St. Louis can take solace in the fact that it's almost over.