ST. LOUIS (AP) — Nolan Arenado came to the St. Louis Cardinals expecting to play into October.
After reaching the postseason twice during eight years with Colorado, Arenado will go to the playoffs in his first season with St. Louis.
Arenado, Dylan Carlson, and Jose Rondon homered to back Adam Wainwright, and the Cardinals extended their winning streak to 17 games and clinched an NL wild card berth with a 6-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday night.
“To be able to go the playoffs is what it’s all about,” Arenado said. “This team is unbelievable. We carry each other. I’m happy to be a part of it. This is why I’m here — to get a chance to play in the playoffs and to be able to do in my first year here is a great feeling.”
St. Louis will play in the NL wild-card game on Oct. 6 at the Los Angeles Dodgers or San Francisco, whichever does not win the NL West. The postseason trip will be the third in a row for the Cardinals.
“We feel dangerous,” Wainwright said. “There have been a couple times where to start the postseason I go, ‘This team could do it.’ We have a team that can do it.”
Milwaukee already was assured of the NL Central title.
St. Louis was 71-69 on Sept. 11 before the winning streak, the longest in team history and the longest in the major leagues since Cleveland took 22 in a row in 2017. The Cardinals are on the longest winning streak from Sept. 1 on since the 1935 Chicago Cubs won 21 in a row.
“I’ve never been a part of a group that just keeps coming,” Arenado said. “We’ve had lost some bad games this year and you would think that’s the end of it, but we just keep fighting.”
That’s what has impressed St. Louis manager Mike Shildt.
“People say, ‘How do you stay so optimistic about this team?’ Really it’s not blind optimism. I am an optimist by nature,” Shildt said. “I think they live longer. It’s an easier team to believe in and have that faith in when I have the privilege of being able to see behind the season the dedication that takes place every day and the intentionality this group has together for a common goal and that’s to celebrate the very last game of Major League Baseball.”
Wainwright (17-7) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings, throwing 102 pitches and stranding seven runners. Wainwright has won six consecutive decisions for the Cardinals and 10 of his last 11. He is 4-0 in September and improved to 2-1 in four starts against the Brewers this season.
“If you had told me that four years ago I’d pitch the clincher at 40, I’d have laughed you out of the room,” Wainwright said. “It’s special. It’s a special time, special season for me. Now we’ve got to keep going.”
Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill each had two hits in an 11-hit attack.
With the score 2-2 in the fifth, Goldschmidt doubled off Jandel Gustave (1-1) and O’Neill singled followed with a single to right that gave him 22 RBIs in the last 20 games. The ball went under the glove of Avisail Garcia for a two-base error. Arenado’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2.
Rondon homered with two outs in the sixth — all three of his home runs this year have come as a pinch hitter. Arenado’s 34th home run, a two-out drive in the seventh, tied Scott Rolen (2004) and Fernando Tatis (1999) for most among Cardinals third baseman in a season.
Luis Urías hit a two-run homer in the fourth. Urías played in place of Willy Adames, who was a late scratch.
“I think that’s one of our strengths,” Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said. “We feel like our position player group is one where we can move guys in and out. That’s why we’re able to withstand things that happen in a 162-game season.”
Carlson homered leading off the bottom half, and Wainwright bunted home Harrison Bader.
“This is just awesome,” Carlson said. “It’s a lot of guys coming together at the right time. We just take it day by day and keep it as simple as that. Thinks have been going our way lately. It’s been a lot of fun. We play to win every day.”
Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff allowed two runs and seven hits in four innings.
“I just kind of ran into a little bit of a roadblock there in the fourth, Woodruff said. ”I gave up a few soft singles there up the middle and they had some traffic and they did a good job. It is what is. Let’s move on and get ready for the next one.”