A .500 record might not seem like a huge thing, but in this season — and for the St. Louis Cardinals — it means a lot.
The Cardinals will take a 24-24 record into their Saturday night road game against the Pittsburgh Pirates after sweeping a doubleheader Friday.
St. Louis is in a tight race for second place, and therefore a playoff spot, in the National League Central. No Cardinals team has made the postseason with a sub-.500 record after Sept. 16, and only three teams in major league history have prior to this season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The two wins Friday, by 6-5 and 7-2 counts, came after St. Louis went 2-4 in the first six games of a 10-day, 13-game road trip, including a loss in the first game of the five-game series in Pittsburgh.
If the Cardinals can catch a spark from Friday’s sweep — their third doubleheader in five days — and keep winning over the final nine days of the season, they could find themselves in the playoffs.
“We told ourselves on this road trip we have our destiny in our hands,” St. Louis reliever Ryan Helsley said after he had a dicey time in the seventh inning of the opener Friday but got the final two outs for his first career save. “How we play is where we’re going to be. We can control what we can control and come out here and play every day.”
Pittsburgh (15-36) has little more to accomplish than some jockeying for favor for next year and for pride. That pride got wounded in the second game Friday, when the Pirates made three errors — including catcher’s interference on Jacob Stallings — plus an ill-advised throw in a six-run St. Louis sixth.
Pittsburgh held a 2-1 lead entering that inning.
In the fourth game of the series Saturday, St. Louis left-hander Kwang Hyun Kim (2-0, 0.63 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (1-1, 5.06 ERA).
Keller is one of the young pitchers the Pirates have high hopes for, even with a predicted glut of potential starters next year. This season, he has been limited to three starts because of an oblique injury.
In his first start after coming off the injured list, Keller pitched three innings Monday at Cincinnati, giving up three runs and two hits.
“Just felt like I took a little bit extra to control it there, and then in the third inning, I think I really found it,” Keller said. “Hopefully we keep rolling with that the next time. I feel really good.”
In his only time facing St. Louis, Keller started July 26 and got his only win so far. He held the Cardinals to one run and two hits in five scoreless innings.
Kim has not given up a run over his past 14 innings. On Monday, in his first start since being hospitalized for a kidney problem, he posted career highs in innings (seven), strikeouts (six) and pitches (87) against the Milwaukee Brewers but did not get a decision despite giving up no runs and three hits.
That would have constituted a complete game since it was part of a doubleheader, but St. Louis lost 2-1 in eight innings.
“I am satisfied with my performance, but unfortunately our team lost, and that’s one thing I’m not satisfied with,” Kim said through an interpreter.
Kim has faced Pittsburgh twice in his career, including one start, and he has pitched to a 1.29 ERA. He gave up one unearned run in six innings Aug. 27 but did not get a decision. Before that, he got his first career save vs. the Pirates in his major league debut on Opening Day, July 24.
–Field Level Media