In 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals’ final series ended with a championship. One year later, it will simply end a disappointing season.
Long eliminated from postseason contention, the Cardinals wrap up their season with a three-game series starting Friday night at PNC Park against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
St. Louis (75-84) entered this season riding a streak of three consecutive NL Central titles, culminating last year with the franchise’s first World Series championship since 1982.
The Cardinals, though, have spent most of this season out of serious contention. They briefly pulled above the .500 mark on Sept. 6, when they trailed Milwaukee and Chicago by just one game for the Central lead, but have dropped 14 of 20 since to fall well off the pace.
With no title to be had, St. Louis still managed to play the spoiler’s role Thursday, beating the Mets 3-0 in a makeup of a June rainout to knock New York back into a tie with Philadelphia for the NL East lead. Joel Pineiro and Jason Isringhausen combined on the three-hitter.
“It almost felt like a pennant game out there even though we’re not in it,” said Pineiro, who pitched a season-high eight innings.
Todd Wellemeyer (3-2, 3.28 ERA) will take the mound in the series opener trying to follow up Pineiro’s effort. Wellemeyer had his best outing since going on the disabled list with an elbow sprain at the All-Star break, allowing only one hit and one walk while striking out five over five scoreless innings versus Houston on Sunday. He did not record a decision in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory.
The right-hander has never started against Pittsburgh, but is 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 11 relief appearances versus the Pirates.
Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke (3-8, 5.83) is also working his way back from an elbow injury, which caused him to miss nearly half the season. In his first start back Saturday at Chicago, the left-hander gave up five runs - four earned - and nine hits in four innings of a 9-5 loss to the Cubs.
Duke, who surrendered three homers and has not won since defeating Texas on June 12, was thankful to have another start before his season ends.
“Obviously I want to go out on a high note. I want to establish that, ‘Hey, I’m still a good pitcher,”’ said Duke, who is 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals. “I feel like - although if you look at the scoreboard you wouldn’t think so - I feel like I took a step in the right direction.”
The Pirates (68-91) lost 8-0 on Thursday, failing to complete a three-game sweep of the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. Pittsburgh can finish no better than tied for last place in the Central, as it trails both Cincinnati and Houston by three games with three to play.
St. Louis holds a 9-6 edge in the season series, which the Pirates have not won since 1999.
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