The St. Louis Cardinals have won the National League Central division. Before we get to the celebration of the champions here, there might be some confusion, so we'll clear that up.
The Cardinals' magic number heading into action Tuesday night in Milwaukee was actually three, but yet they still clinched the division. The magic number has traditionally needed to hit zero for a team to clinch. In order to figure that, one must grab the combination of the wins for the team in first and the losses for the team in second, subtracted from 163. The Cardinals' 90 wins right now plus the Brewers' 72 losses is only 162, so what gives?
Well, there is no Game 163 as a tiebreaker anymore. MLB is using tiebreaker formulas instead, and the Cardinals have now gone 10-8 against the Brewers this season. The two teams only have one game left against each other, so they clinched the season series and, as such, the tiebreaker and the division. The best the Brewers could do here is tie things up and the Cardinals would still win, so it's over.
The Brewers actually led this thing for a large portion of the season. They were in first place 95 days compared to 87 for the Cardinals to this point. The Brewers' lead was as much as 4 1/2 games and they still held a four-game lead on July 30.
The Cardinals took over from there, though. Since July 30, the Cardinals have gone 37-17, the second-best record in baseball over that time. The Brewers lost 15 of 23 after July 30 to help give the Cardinals a push toward dominating the division, too.
The Cardinals have thrived behind superstars Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, but it's been much more. Rookies Brendan Donovan, Juan Yepez and Nolan Gorman have provided sparks at times. Tommy Edman's all-around play has helped. Lars Nootbaar is becoming a cult hero.
On the pitching side, the acquisitions of lefties Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery have been huge. Veteran Adam Wainwright is putting together another great season at age 40. Ryan Helsley anchors a capable bullpen.
And, of course, one cannot say enough about the hot second half from Albert Pujols. Between the timely hitting and inspiration provided from his run to 700 home runs, he's been a major spark for the team, even if coming into the season such a proposition felt unlikely.
Yadier Molina, Wainwright and Pujols are looking for one last run to a World Series ring together. The first step is making the playoffs, and the Cardinals have now punched their ticket.