9/29/2013 8:15 P.M. ET
Cardinals set new RISP mark
By Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals concluded the 2013 regular season by setting a new standard for average with runners in scoring position.
Their .330 mark (447-for-1,355) is the best in the Majors in at least the last 40 years, eclipsing the 2007 Tigers and the 1996 Rockies -- who set the previous high at .311.
"That's been our trademark all season," said Matt Carpenter. "... We've done a great job with that, top to bottom, all of our lineup has done really well. It's been something that we did an amazing job all year with. Hopefully, we'll keep that going this postseason."
The Cardinals landed five players among the top six hitters with runners in scoring position. Allen Craig, who hasn't played since Sept. 4 due to a sprained left foot, finished the season hitting .454 with runners in scoring position. In the last 40 years, only George Brett (.469 in 1980) and Tony Gwynn (.459 in '97) finished with better marks than Craig.
Atlanta's Freddie Freeman (.443) finished second, while Matt Holliday (.390), Carpenter (.388), Carlos Beltran (.374) and Yadier Molina (.373) rounded out the top six.
Carpenter falls short in bid for 200 hits
ST. LOUIS -- Matt Carpenter led the Majors with 199 hits this season. But No. 200 eluded him, as the Cardinals wrapped the regular season with a 4-0 win over the Cubs.
Carpenter went 0-for-8 with three walks since he recorded hit No. 199 on Friday, finishing one shy of becoming the first Cardinals hitter to top 200 knocks since Albert Pujols had 212 in 2003. Before Pujols, the last player with 200 hits for the Cards was Willie McGee in 1985. Had Carpenter reached the mark, he would have been just the third St. Louis hitter to reach that milestone since 1979.
"The way I look at it is, after today, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in the National League -- and for me, that is the most important thing," Carpenter said. "Obviously, from an individual standpoint, 200 hits is a cool thing -- and, obviously, I would have liked to get that. But more importantly, we won a big game today. We have the best record in the National League, and now the fun begins."
Carpenter admitted to some relief that he's entering the postseason with a clean slate, alleviating the pressure of chasing the elusive hit.
"You always hear it when guys are chasing certain things, that it can kind of get to them a little bit," Carpenter said, "and I don't know if it did or not. Certainly, that last one was tough to find. It is what it is."
Though he fell short in his pursuit of 200, Carpenter wasn't lacking for impressive statistical feats in just his second full season in the big leagues -- and first as a starting second baseman. The first-time All-Star was honored before Sunday's season finale for passing Stan Musial and setting the Cardinals' single-season record for doubles by a left-handed hitter, with 55.
"You know, it's crazy," Carpenter said. "Something that you can't put into words what that means. To be mentioned in the same sentence with [Musial] is quite an honor and something I'm extremely proud of."
Carpenter also led the Majors in runs (126) and multi-hit games (63), and finished the season ranked sixth in the NL in batting average (.318) and fourth in average with runners in scoring position (.388). He also set the Busch Stadium III record for hits with 112.
"I don't know where we'd be without him -- having that leadoff hitter and having the kind of season that he's having and what he's done defensively," said manager Mike Matheny. "It's just off the charts, as far as how good he has been and how much he's proven just what a solid baseball player he is -- no matter where we put him."
Freese, Holliday get rest in season finale
ST. LOUIS -- Out of the lineup for a second straight day, David Freese reiterated that the weekend of rest is no indication that there is anything wrong with him physically.
Freese, who started 21 straight games before sitting on Saturday, has hit safely in 11 of his last 14 games. Over his last 21 games, he has 18 hits, three homers and 10 RBIs. If he doesn't pinch-hit on Sunday, he'll finish the season with a .262 average, nine homers and 60 RBIs.
"I feel good," Freese said. "This [time off] isn't anything to overanalyze. I'm just going to rest for a few days and be ready for Thursday. This last month, I feel like I've been hitting a lot better."
Asked how he would describe his up-and-down season, Freese said: "So close to being so much better."
Joining Freese on the bench on Sunday was left fielder Matt Holliday, who came out of Saturday's game in the third inning. The Cardinals had hoped to allow Holliday to finish the season with a .300 average, and were able to do so after he homered and walked in his two plate appearances on Saturday.
Holliday's average had not been at .300 all season, but it methodically climbed toward that mark as he went 19-for-37 in his last 10 games.
"We had a pretty good idea yesterday that when he came out of the game that would be it, especially how his last hit was a good one to keep in your memory for about four days," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're excited that he's on a good note, right now."
With Holliday and Freese resting, Matheny was able to give starts to Shane Robinson and Kolten Wong, both of whom could be on the team's bench during the postseason.
Mujica trying to put struggles behind him
ST. LOUIS -- Edward Mujica, believing that his September struggles have been mostly mental, hopes that playing a mental game can help him emerge from his funk.
"September has been a bad month for me," Mujica said on Sunday. "But the playoffs start in October, and I'll be ready because it's a new month."
First, the Cardinals have to decide whether to place Mujica on the postseason roster. General manager John Mozeliak said on Saturday that he did expect Mujica to play a role out of the bullpen in October. However, that was before Mujica allowed three of the four ninth-inning batters he faced to record a hit -- one home run and two doubles -- in the Cards' 6-2 win over the Cubs.
Mujica entered September with a 1.73 ERA in 55 appearances. He seemed firmly entrenched as the team's closer and was poised to make a run at a 40-save season. It has since turned out to be one of the worst months of his career. Mujica has given up 18 hits and nine earned runs in 7 1/3 innings. Opponents are batting .514 against the right-hander, who is now no longer being considered for late-inning, high-leverage situations.
"Sometimes people are more concerned about the last month, because it's the month to get ready for the postseason," Mujica said. "But I feel pretty good. I have to go out there and keep battling. Everything is good throughout my body. The thing sometimes, though, is that this job is like a roller coaster. You have good months. You have bad months. My bad month is September."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.