You may have gotten tired of me saying in The Fast Lane during the season, “if the Cardinals miss the playoffs by a game, we’ll look back on that one.”
Well, the Cardinals missed the playoffs by a game.
These are my top six losses to look back on in which the 2016 Birds missed a chance to force at least a Wild Card playoff game.
6) June 24, 4-3 at Seattle: The Cardinals broke through with three runs with tough at bats in the eighth, and were up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Manager Mike Matheny had the struggling Trevor Rosenthal…who had put the club in tenuous spots in five-of-six games…start the bottom of the ninth. He allowed a Kyle Seager double, Dae-Ho Lee walked and Adam Lind hit a 403 foot walk off homer. The next day, Rosenthal was removed as closer.
5) June 15, 4-1 to Houston: Adam Wainwright’s second best start of the year saw him deliver seven scoreless innings. Kevin Siegrist was entrusted with a 1-0 lead in the eighth. That lead should have been more.
Stephen Piscotty led off the fifth with a double, and with one out was thrown out at the plate on Jhonny Peralta’s single to right.
Yadier Molina followed with a double, and Aledmys Diaz was walked before Wainwright grounded out. In the inning, two doubles, a single and a walk…but no runs. The Cards scratched out a run in the bottom of the seventh, but in the eighth Siegrist allowed a bloop hit and a fly out. He picked off Carlos Gomez, who had singled, but walked Evan Gattis. George Springer then hit a two out, two run homer to give Houston the lead. Rosenthal allowed two more in the ninth of a 4-1 loss.
4) June 19, 5-4 to Texas: The Redbirds rallied and took a 4-3 lead into the eighth. Matt Bowman got the first two outs easily, and after a Rougned Odor double he intentionally walked Mitch Moreland.
Bowman then got a ground ball to short, but a lackadaisical Diaz was late with the throw to second, and a hustling Moreland was safe there. After what should have been the third out, Jurickson Profar singled home two to make it 5-4, and the Cardinals didn’t rally.
3) September 27, 2-1 to Cincinnati: In the midst of a horrendous starting pitching slump for the team, Mike Leake gave the Redbirds a good start.
They couldn’t do much against Anthony DiSclefani, but put runners at second and third with one out in the eighth against Reds reliever Raisel Iglesias, only to have Piscotty strike out and Peralta ground out. After the Cards got out of a jam in the top of the ninth, Kolten Wong led off the bottom of the inning with a pinch hit triple. But, Diaz grounded out, Greg Garcia flied out and pinch hitter Jedd Gyorko grounded out to end the game.
Failing to get runners home from scoring position…including that runner at third with nobody out…devastated the Redbirds that night, an evening in which the Giants lost to the Rockies.
2) August 2, 7-5 at Cincinnati: The Cardinals dramatically rallied from a 4-3 deficit with solo homers by Brandon Moss and Tommy Pham in the eighth, and were in good shape with that lead and Seung Hwan Oh pitching.
Oh had come on in the bottom of the eighth, when Jonathan Broxton started the inning with two walks and a fielding mishap on a bunt single.
With the bases loaded and nobody out, Oh struck out Billy Hamilton and induced Ivan DeJesus to hit into a double play.
After cleanup hitter Oh failed to deliver with the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the ninth (Matheny had double switched out number three hitter Matt Holliday, cleanup hitter Matt Adams and fifth-place hitter Peralta) he started the bottom of the ninth.
Joey Votto led off with a hit, Adam Duvall singled and Brandon Phillips flied out. After getting ahead, Oh allowed a three run homer to Scott Schebler that gave the Reds a dramatic 7-5 victory. The Giants lost to Philadelphia that night.
1) July 31, 5-4 at Miami: This one was double tough. Cardinal All-Star shortstop Aledmys Diaz was hit by a pitch in the first inning, and suffered a broken thumb that would keep him on the shelf until September 12, a span of 37 games. But that was only half of the bad news.
The Cardinals got a timely two-out double from Piscotty in the eighth inning that allowed two runs to score…with the help of a Marlins error…and tie the game at four. After neither team scored in their next half inning, Bowman came on for the Cards and got the first two hitters. After Adeiny Hechavarria singled, Derek Dietrich hit a fly ball to left-center. Left fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker pursued the ball, but saw center fielder Pham coming. Pham was in pursuit, but saw Hazelbaker coming. Both backed off and allowed the ball to drop for a game ending triple.
A ball that should have been caught instead wound up falling for the hit that ended the loss, and the club announced the next day that Diaz would miss at least a month. And he did.
• May 29, 10-2 at Washington: The Cardinals knocked out Steven Strasburg and clawed for a run to trail only 3-2 in seventh. Broxton came on, and Anthony Rendon hit his first pitch for a home run to make it 4-2. Broxton lasted fourteen more pitches and put runners at first and second. Dean Kiekhefer came on, put another runner on, and then Jason Werth hit a grand slam. Suddenly a 3-2 deficit was 8-2, and the Cards lost 10-2.
• August 27, 3-2 to Oakland: Despite going 0-8 with runners in scoring position, the Cards had a 2-1 lead heading into the eighth in Alex Reyes’ first major league start. However, in the eighth, Bowman allowed a one out hit to Khris Davis and a double to Ryon Healy. Oh came on and got a ground ball that scored one, and a sac fly that scored another. The Redbirds went down without a whimper thereafter, and lost 3-2. The Giants lost to Atlanta that night.
• September 2, 3-2 at Cincinnati: In Reyes’ second start, the Cards blew a 2-0 lead in the sixth, and the game was tied 2-2 into the bottom of the ninth. Oh loaded the bases with one out, and Eugenio Suarez delivered the game winning hit. The Giants lost to the Cubs that day.
A franchise that has been able to take advantage of so many opportunities in the last twenty seasons wasn’t able to in 2016, losing so many key games because of bad mistakes.
It’ll be a busy off-season with some serious re-tooling, as the Cardinals will try to get back to their accustomed position in the post-season in 2017.