MILWAUKEE — The St. Louis Cardinals finally separated themselves from the Milwaukee Brewers in early August after chasing them for much of the season.
They haven’t looked back since, turning what was a nip and tuck NL Central race into something of a runaway.
“With the kids that we have and the veteran leadership, we knew as soon as we smelled some blood right there and we got the lead, we knew we could run away with it,” Mikolas said.
Andrew Knizner hit a two-run homer to snap out of an 0-for-22 slump as St. Louis sealed its first division crown since 2019 and fourth straight playoff berth by defeating the team that won the NL Central last year. This marks the third straight year the Cardinals have clinched a postseason berth with a win over the Brewers.
The Cardinals (90-65) guaranteed themselves at least a tie with second-place Milwaukee (82-72), and now they own the tiebreaker because the win on Tuesday gave St. Louis an insurmountable 10-8 lead in the season series.
St. Louis held a fairly modest celebration on the Brewers’ home field after the playoff outing, reacting not much differently than if they had just won a regular game at midseason. The party didn’t start until the Cardinals entered the locker room and started popping champagne.
“This is just one step, guys,” Albert Pujols told his teammates at the start of the celebration. “Just remember this moment. This is what we want to do deep into October and hopefully win the championship and bring it to the city of St.
The Brewers remain 1½ games behind Philadelphia for the final NL wild card. The Phillies won the season series with Milwaukee and would receive the playoff bid if the teams ended up tied.
St. Louis trailed Milwaukee in the NL Central standings for much of the season and was four games back on the morning of July 31. The Cardinals are 37-17 and the Brewers 25-28 later.
“We just haven’t really played well enough all season to deserve to win the division,” Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich said “You get what you deserve a lot in sports, and we just, for whatever reason, couldn’t put it all together. Not saying we still don’t have a shot. We still have a shot at a wild card.”
Tuesday’s clincher didn’t have much suspense, as St. Louis scored the first six runs to delight the large contingent of Cardinals fans at American Family Field.
Mikolas (12-13) struck out nine and allowed just four hits and one walk. The Brewers’ only run came in the sixth when Rowdy Tellez hit his 34th home run.
Milwaukee trailed 2-0 when starter Adrian Houser (6-10) left with a strained right groin with one out in the fourth. Brewers manager Craig Counsell said Houser will likely go on the injured list.
The Cardinals took sole possession of first place on August 6 and have been there ever since as part of a thrilling season that included Pujols hitting his 700th career homer, Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado making MVP arguments and Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina becoming the most productive batter in MLB history.
“Extremely magical when you really think about it,” manager Oliver Marmol said. “What’s more important than all that, you have MVP candidates at our corners, you have Yadi and Waino chasing 325. [starts together], you have 700 from Albert, and they never made it about themselves. They always indicated to win and take a step towards a championship. That tells you a lot about the character and the culture of this club.”
Molina and Pujols have already announced that this is their last season. Now that the Cardinals have won a division title, they want to keep winning to make sure those veterans go out in style.
“We want them to leave baseball with one more ring, for sure,” Mikolas said.