ST. LOUIS -- With their 8-1 win over the Cubs on Saturday, the Cardinals not only became the Majors' first 50-win team this season, they became the first club in a decade to reach that benchmark in its first 74 games.
The 2005 White Sox were the last team to get its 50th win so quickly, doing so en route to capturing that year's World Series championship. Going back 50 years, the Cardinals are one of just 18 teams to notch 50 wins before losing 25 games. Four of the previous clubs to do so -- Tigers (1984), Mets (1986), Yankees (1998) and the aforementioned White Sox -- went on to win the World Series in that season.
Thirteen of the last 17 clubs to reach 50 games by this point in the season went on to finish with at least 100 victories. The good news for the Cardinals, too, is that only two such clubs have missed the playoffs. With their sensational start, the Cardinals have built an eight-game lead over the second-best team in the National League, which is NL Central rival Pittsburgh.
"I keep hearing from other guys I talk to on other teams, and they say, 'Gosh, you guys just keep winning,'" said first-year Cardinals reliever Carlos Villanueva. "You look at it on paper, it's expected and it's the way that we mix together. The message that [manager] Mike [Matheny] gives is you have to pick the guy up next to you. Everybody does his part."
In the organization's storied history, such a start has been put together only once before this season. That was in 1944, when the Cardinals opened the season 52-21-2 before finishing the year with 105 regular-season wins and a World Series championship.
"Forgive me, but I really don't know how to respond to it because the message that we're giving inside [the clubhouse] is that it's way too early to be looking at records," Matheny said. "We can't deny [the significance] when you start looking at some things that teams have or have not done in this organization in the past, and you have to be able to respect the fact that not many have been able to get to 50 [this quickly]. So we're not completely oblivious to it, but we're also not spending a lot of time on it. I think it's kind of a distraction for what we have to do next."
So how have the Cardinals accrued so many wins so quickly?
The club has boasted an eight-game winning streak, four five-game winning streaks and another two of four in a row. The Cardinals have dropped three straight just once, posted a home record of 28-7 and gone 16-11 in one-run games. There have been six walk-off wins and six victories in games in which the team trailed after seven innings.
The Cardinals have the best run differential (plus- 95) in the Majors as well as baseball's lowest ERA (2.63) by a sizable margin. No club has posted a lower ERA through this many games since 1972, when the Orioles' staff had a mark of 2.31.
"We obviously know we're playing good baseball right now," second baseman Kolten Wong said. "We're just having fun playing this game we love and continuing to try and play good baseball."