Cards acknowledge team, individual stats before getting down to business

BY foxsports • September 29, 2013

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- In the postseason, the hot teams often prevail over the best teams.
Based on that, the Cardinals should be set to play deep into October. A 4-0 victory over the Cubs on Sunday afternoon sends St. Louis into the postseason with a six-game winning streak, the Cardinals having outscored the Cubs and Nationals 27-6 in sweeping their final homestand. For the second straight season, the Cardinals ended the regular season on a 12-4 run.
"We're playing as good of baseball as we've played all year," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "Timing of this couldn't have played out any better."
If 2013 turns out to be one of those rare years when the best team wins the World Series, the Cardinals should be right there, too. At 97-65, they finished with the National League's top mark and tied the Red Sox for best in the majors. Since 1998, only the 2007 Red Sox and 2009 Yankees won the World Series after posting the best regular-season record.
"We're very proud of our record," manager Mike Matheny said. "Something that we don't take lightly."
The Cardinals' win Sunday came under some unusual conditions. Little-used-of-late Jake Westbrook got the start in what was almost certainly his final game with the Cardinals and, perhaps, even the final game of his career. But, as was planned, he pitched only one inning before Joe Kelly came in and worked 5 1/3 innings with stuff that Matheny called perhaps his best of the season.
Yadier Molina started behind the plate but played even less than Westbrook. Wanting to give the sellout crowd a chance to recognize Molina for his MVP-type season, Matheny had Tony Cruz sub in for Molina before the first pitch.
Carlos Beltran, in what might have been his final regular-season game with the Cardinals as well, was treated to a nice ovation when he was lifted after taking the field in the top of the fifth.
Before the game, the Cardinals honored Carpenter for breaking Stan Musial's record for most doubles by a left-handed hitter in a season.
"I believe our fans like to acknowledge our guys," Matheny said. "Our guys like to be acknowledged. From here on out, it's all business. Everybody knows that. There's not going to be a lot of opportunities to acknowledge."
About all that didn't go right in the matter of milestones was Carpenter's failure to collect his 200th hit. After getting his 199th hit in the second inning Friday night, Carpenter came up 11 more times but could manage nothing better than three walks.
"You always hear when guys are chasing certain things it can kind of get to them a bit," Carpenter said. "I don't know if it did or not. Certainly, that last one was tough to find."
It was about all that didn't go right for Carpenter in his breakout season. He still led the majors in hits as well as runs (126), doubles (55) and multi-hit games (63) while finishing fifth in the NL with a .318 batting average.
"From an individual standpoint, 200 hits is a cool thing and I would have liked to get that," he said. "But more importantly, we won a big game today. We have the best record in the National League and now the fun begins."
October should be a blast for the Cardinals, too, considering how they emerged from the regular season.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter @stanmcneal or email him at stanmcneal@gmail.com.


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