ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - To say the final 31 games for the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals were a sprint may be an understatement. But after beating the Houston Astros 8-0 in Houston on September 28, 2011, behind a complete game shutout from Chris Carpenter, the team was forced to wait. And wait. And wait.
The Cardinals were tied atop the National League Wild Card standings with the Atlanta Braves after 161 games, entering the regular season's final day. After Carpenter and the Cardinals dispatched Houston in just two hours and twenty minutes, the team huddled in the visitors' clubhouse at Minute Maid Park to watch the Braves and Phillies.
Despite starting an hour before the Cardinals took the field in Houston that night, the Braves and Phillies would play into extra innings, and until about 10:40pm local time in Houston.
If Atlanta won, the Cardinals and Braves would meet in St. Louis for a one-game playoff to determine the Wild Card Champions. A Braves loss meant the Cardinals would pop champagne and prepare to head to Philadelphia for the NLDS.
"If you would have asked me from the final out, to when that celebration began, I would have thought it was two and a half hours. Not 90 minutes," recalled Cardinals President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak.
Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday remembers the team watching the rest of the Braves-Phillies game together.
"It's always more difficult watching something that you have absolutely no control of that has that kind of impact on you because you know there's nothing you can do. You're just at the mercy of how these two teams play it out.
"We were all sitting around, there's that double play, it's just kind of a feeling that you can't find anywhere else."
The celebration was officially on. Mozeliak and the Cardinals had completed one of the greatest regular season comebacks in modern baseball.
"When that final out happened and we knew we were in, it was just an incredible feeling. Just, amazing. It was quite a party, actually. Quite a celebration.