It all came down to game 162 with the National League Central on the line. The suspense of two games being played in two different time zones — only minutes separating the first pitch that would leave the hands of Jack Flaherty in St. Louis against a battered Chicago and Jeff Hoffman in Denver against Milwaukee, a team trying to make a push for game 163 and the division.
It wasn’t easy for either team — from offensive slumps to injuries plaguing the starting nine. It often looked bleak at times.
And then when everyone least expected it — something happened, something sparked for both teams. The Cardinals took August by storm with Jack Flaherty carving up strikeout after strikeout. The Brewers took September by storm after losing MVP Yelich for the remainder of 2019, #DoItForYeli.
With the only other contender Chicago out of the way, the two teams had their eyes set on the division. The math was simple — the Cardinals could take the division at anytime as long as they kept winning and/or if the Brewers lost.
But the Brewers kept winning and making the race to the finish line a little more complicated. And after a four-game sweep of the Cubs and a close win against the D-backs, the Cardinals fell back to earth and rather quickly. The 19 inning game in the desert that resulted in a gut punching loss — it’ll be one that will forever go down as the weirdest game I have witnessed.
(*Also working on three hours of sleep after watching a baseball game is not advised for anyone who has that on their bucket list.*)
That once comfortable feeling of being in first place became a little more cramped with Milwaukee charging behind like a train — full steam ahead.
The Brewers packed their bags and landed in Denver, while the Cardinals came back home deflated and overthinking every single piece that could finish the puzzle.
Game 160 lasted for what seemed like an entire year on both sides. The two spoiler teams did their job — Cubs taking game one against the Cardinals, Rockies taking game one against the Brewers. The magic number dropped to two, in favor of the Cardinals winning the division.
Game 161 felt like the previous night for everyone watching the scoreboard. Busch Stadium felt heavy, the air thick and anxiety high as everyone stayed to watch the finale at Coors Field, waiting to see what fate would allow. Trevor Story, an unlikely hero in the NL Central’s story hit a walk-off home run off of Josh Hader and sent Busch into hysterics. The magic number with a little help from the Rockies became one.
Going into game 162 felt like a fever dream, a nervous knot in the pit of your stomach. If the Cardinals won, it was over. If the Cardinals lost, everyone would need to regain composure and wait another day to see who reigned over the NL Central.
And then it happened, the offense that looked so exhausted and so broken down came alive. The Cardinals attacked in the bottom of the first inning and never looked back.
The Cardinals went on to win against the defeated soon-to-be Joe Maddon-less Cubs 9-0, while the Brewers lost in extra innings against the Rockies 4-3.
It took three years, three seasons, and a game 162, but the St. Louis Cardinals have returned back to where they belong — the postseason.
— The Milwaukee Brewers will face off against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday for a one-game Wild Card. Broadcasted on TBS. 7:08 CST. (Winner will advance to play the Los Angeles Dodgers.)
— The St. Louis Cardinals will face off against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday.* Broadcasted on TBS. 4:02 CST.