Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - At Minute Maid Park (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Houston Astros (Brett Meyers - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 24,358
The Cardinals completed their most improbable quest for postseason play since 1964, with an 8-0 win over the Houston Astros. Chris Carpenter had his most dominant outing of the season - a complete game two-hit shutout, which also included eleven strikeouts and just one base on balls. Clearly, he was primed for postseason play.
The Cardinals took command of this game from the outset - scoring five first-inning runs on seven hits. The Redbirds tacked on another third-inning run when Carpenter got into the act with an RBI single to score David Freese - who also scored a fifth-inning run (his third of the game) on Skip Schumaker's second RBI of the game - on a run-scoring ground out.
Allen Craig added a ninth-inning solo home run to round out the scoring - for the game - and the regular season for the National League's most dominant offensive attack.
With Carpenter anchoring the starting rotation and a vastly improved bullpen, this team seemed to have all the pieces required to go all the way. And of course, they did.
In the meantime, after this game concluded, St Louis now held a one-half game advantage over the Braves for the coveted wild card berth in the National League. The game between the Braves and Phillies - which began an hour before this one - was still in progress - tied at three runs apiece.
As the Cardinal players gathered in the visitor's clubhouse to watch the conclusion of that game - the Phillies scored a thirteenth-inning run to take the lead. When Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman grounded into a season-ending 3-6-3 double-play - one hour and fifteen minutes after their win in Game 162 - the Cardinals were in - and the first of four wild champagne celebrations had begun.
Three years later, the Cardinals clinched their second straight NL Central title after Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto avenged last season's embarrassing wild card loss to the Pirates - and at least for a day - was not the most despised opposing player in Cardinal Nation.