ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals did their part, thumping the Pirates, 10-4, to end the season with four straight wins. But they did not get the necessary help out West, where the Giants, with their own sweep, ended the Cardinals' postseason pursuit at 5:11 p.m. CT on Sunday.
It means that for the first time since 2010, Major League Baseball's postseason will not feature any games in St. Louis. The Cardinals, with a record of 86-76, finished one game behind both the Giants and Mets in the National League Wild Card race.
"Missing the playoffs by one game, that's hard to swallow with all the different ways we could have won games," said Sunday's starter, Adam Wainwright. "Looking at my season and how many times I could have won games that I didn't win and I should have pitched better -- you can't do it now, and it doesn't matter anymore. But it's certainly more painful to know that you just missed out."
The Pirates, who dropped six of their final eight games, end the year at 78-83-1.
"It was a test. They always are," veteran starter Ryan Vogelsong said. "You always have the roller-coaster ride and try to keep the swell small and short. There's going to be ups and downs. The teams that handle it the best are the ones that come out on top."
The Cardinals broke open Sunday's game with a six-run seventh in which they tallied six straight hits off Pittsburgh's relievers. It came a half-inning after the Pirates had evened the game at 4 with a John Jaso home run off Jonathan Broxton. That blast came a half-inning after Matt Carpenter provided a 4-2 lead with a dramatic three-run shot.
By the time the Cardinals took control, however, the Giants had done so, too. San Francisco scored five times in the first two frames, and the Cardinals were reminded of it each time they peeked at the out-of-town scoreboard.
"I'm usually pretty good at avoiding reading things or scoreboard-watching, but today was a little tougher," said Carpenter. "I was pretty locked in on it. What I was happy about with this group was the fact that the Giants game got kind of ugly early, and we still found a way to fight and come back and win this game."
Wainwright bought time for the offense with six strong innings. He allowed two runs -- both scoring on Andrew McCutchen's fifth-inning bases-loaded single -- and was in line for his 14th win of the season when he exited.
Vogelsong wrapped up his season by allowing one run over five innings to finish with a 4.81 ERA.
"I feel like as a team, we handled a lot of adversity this year and should be able to hang our hats on that," Vogelsong said. "We've got to be proud of ourselves for the grind and the battle. We just came up short."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Finishing strong: Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina capped a superb second half with a three-hit afternoon in which he drove in the Cardinals' first run and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh. Molina tallied 11 hits during the team's seven-game homestand and hit safely in 17 of his final 18 games. He finishes the season with more hits (164) and doubles (37) than any other catcher in baseball.
"Yadi is special," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "I think he continues to figure out ways to get the job done. The team takes on the personality of some of its leaders, and I would say what you've seen from Yadi is very directly related to what you see in the rest of our club." More >
Valiant Vogey: Essentially pitching for himself, his current team and his former team (the Giants), Vogelsong battled through five innings and put together his best start in more than a month. The veteran right-hander had an 8.78 ERA in his last six starts, but he held the Cards to just one run on five hits and three walks. Vogelsong also chipped in at the plate, recording his first hit of the season and scoring the Bucs' first run of the game.
"It's crazy. Today I felt like was probably the worst stuff I had since I came back from my injury," Vogelsong said. "Sometimes those days are the ones you pitch the best because your concentration's there." More >
Long gone: Carpenter's home run pushed the team's season total to 225. It's the second-highest home run total in franchise history, trailing only the 2000 club, which hit 235. Carpenter, who reached base three times, finished his season with 21 homers in 129 games.
Clutch Cutch: McCutchen finished the worst season of his Major League career, but he salvaged something positive with a strong finish. McCutchen put together solid offensive numbers in August and September, and he padded them Sunday with a two-run single in the fifth inning that gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead.
"It's good. I know what I'm capable of doing. I know I can also get better and be more consistent," McCutchen said. "It's not like it just vanished. It's still there. I've got more time to assess what I really need to do, what I really need to work on."
A PROPER SENDOFF
With his club's postseason fate sealed in the eighth inning, Matheny created one final opportunity for fans to say goodbye to Matt Holliday, who is not expected to return next season. Holliday took the field, alone, to open the ninth and received a standing ovation while trotting to left field. His teammates came out of the dugout to applaud as well.
"I've given everything I had, and I've tried to play the game the right way," Holliday said. "I love the organization, and I'm really proud of a lot of the things we were able to accomplish in my time here. It does feel good, for people to appreciate who I am." More >
"You can't have a comeback without setbacks. If that's what we're talking about, then that's the epitome of my career." -- Vogelsong, on how the Pirates' 2016 season reflected his up-and-down career
"I don't think anybody has to hang their heads in here for what they did. We lost a lot of key players during critical times [in] the season and still ended up making that last game count. Unfortunately, we could only control so much. When you do that, you're leaving a little bit at risk. We didn't get it done." -- Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• Wainwright's fourth-inning double was his 11th extra-base hit this season, tying him with Bob Gibson for the single-season franchise record. Gibson tallied 11 back in 1972. Wainwright's collection of extra-base hits includes eight doubles, one triple and two home runs.
• The Pirates began the season with a sweep of the Cardinals at PNC Park, a three-game set that included the first game of the Major League season. The Cards delivered a sweep at Busch Stadium to end the year, with Sunday's win giving them the 10-9 edge in the season series.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
• The Cardinals used up their challenge in the sixth by asking for a second look at a bang-bang play at second. Pirates outfielder Matt Joyce tagged up on Alen Hanson's flyball and advanced 90 feet despite a strong throw from Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty. A one-minute, 20-second review did not supply enough evidence to overturn the call.
• Leading off the seventh against Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio, Molina hit a line drive down the left-field line. The ball bounced into the stands and off a rail before landing in left field. Molina initially ran all the way home on the play, but he was sent back to third. The Pirates challenged the umpires' placement of Molina, and the call was overturned after a two-minute and 26-second review, with Molina heading back to second base. Molina wound up scoring when Piscotty, the next batter, singled to center.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Pittsburgh will head home for the offseason following its first losing season since 2012. The Bucs will open the 2017 campaign against the Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 3.
Cardinals: St. Louis will open its 2017 season at home with a 3:15 p.m. CT game against the Cubs on April 3.