Four hours, 25 minutes later Sunday, the Cardinals finally reached the two-thirds mark of the season in first place by two games in the National League Central Division standings. That means 108 games have been played and 54 remain, but the Cardinals’ record when they’re in first place at this point of a season is gaudy.
After they completed a three-game series sweep of the New York Yankees with a 12-9 victory in a record length for a nine-inning game at Busch Stadium III, the Cardinals’ winning streak had reached seven games. And they are a season-high 12 games over the break-even mark, 60-48.
Since 2000, the Cardinals have won 10 division championships. On eight of those occasions, they were in first place after 108 games played — in 2019, 2015, 2009, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2002 and 2000. And 38 of their 54 remaining games this year are against sub-.500 teams.
“We’ve got to continue to play like we’re playing the Yankees,” said Paul DeJong, whose three-run homer in the eighth inning gave the Cardinals a little breathing room.
The Yankees lost their fifth game in succession and were swept in a three-game series for the first time this season. They were swept by the Cardinals for the first time ever in a three-game series.
The only other time in their histories that the Cardinals had won three games in succession from the Yankees in the same year came in the 1942 World Series when the Cardinals won the final four games after losing the first game.
“They kept us in the ballpark other than DJ (LeMahieu) at the very end, and that’s the difference,” said Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who was dismissed early by home-plate umpire Ed Hickox, who had a rough time with ball-and-strike complaints from both teams and then was tagged in the mask by a foul tip. He was held up by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina before collapsing to the ground.
“It was a tough day in many different aspects for (Hickox),” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.
The Cardinals hadn’t had a homer in the first two games of the series, either. Then Nolan Arenado cracked a three-run homer in the second inning Sunday and DeJong his three-run blast into Big Mac Land in the eighth. Each drove in four runs.
After a 1-0 game on Saturday, the teams had combined for 10 runs by the end of the second inning Sunday.