ST. LOUIS – What better way to spend a frigid Friday than to remember the sights and sounds of a St. Louis summer, specifically Cardinals baseball.
2022 became one of the most storied seasons for one of the most storied franchises in MLB history, though fate called for a quick and abrupt postseason exit. The Cardinals won the National League Central Division behind a 93-69 record, a campaign abundant with accolades, personal milestones, and some emotional goodbyes.
Without further ado, here is a look back at ten memorable moments from the 2022 St. Louis Cardinals calendar year:
10. Almost one for the record books
Miles Mikolas fell just one strike short of a no-hitter on June 14, the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cal Mitchell spoiled the bid with a fly ball just out of Harrison Bader’s reach to complete it.
Mikolas missed out on the 11th no-hitter in Cardinals history and the first in nearly two-plus decades. An impressive 129-pitch outing, but the legend of Bud Smith (last St. Louis no-no in 2001) still lives on.
9. “Immaculate” inning
Ryan Helsley started the 2022 season as a setup man, though it didn’t take long for him to rise into a dominant All-Star closer. The 28-year-old consistently clocked 100 miles per hour on his fastball, finished with the second-most strikeouts among NL relievers, and even adopted an epic entrance behind AC/DC’s “Hells Bells.”
His cherry on top? A rare immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) at home on Sept. 16 against the Cincinnati Reds. It’s just the third in Cardinals history and one of only around 100 in baseball all-time.
8. First-timers rise
Thirteen players debuted Major League with the Cardinals in 2022, second-most in the National League behind the Chicago Cubs. Brendan Donovan led the pack with a 4.1 WAR. He also finished third in NL Rookie of the Year voting and won the NL Super Utility Gold Glove after stout defense at six positions.
Other notable debuts include Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Andre Pallante. First-year manager Oli Marmol, at only 36 years old, gained valuable experience and finished fourth in NL Manager of the Year voting.
7. Bronx Bombers swept
It only took the Cardinals one early-August weekend to double their all-time total of regular season wins against the New York Yankees. It also took three different styles of winning from Aug. 5-7.
In the series opener, St. Louis came back late on a go-ahead, eighth-inning blast from Paul DeJong. The next night, Jordan Montgomery made his Cardinals debut against the team that just traded him four days earlier, firing five scoreless innings en route to a shutout win. The Cardinals then outlasted the Yankees in one of the longest nine-inning games in Busch Stadium III history (4 hours, 25 minutes) for a 12-9 victory and a series sweep.
6. Celebrity spotlight
Grammy Award winners Chris Rock and Nelly both made time to enjoy Cardinals games at Busch Stadium this summer, and the team rewarded both with wins. The Cardinals staged a late comeback for the comedian Rock, including a five-run sixth-inning in a June 13 win. Rock was quoted saying, “I love St. Louis. Great crowds, great food. I always catch a Cardinals game when I’m in town,” in a one-on-one interview with Bally Sports Midwest.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis-raised rapper Nelly enjoyed at least two victories this season and a special front-row celebration. Cardinals legend Albert Pujols slugged his 685th home run on July 12 against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Nelly greeted him with a large smile and a high-five through the nets. And just one month later, Nelly also witnessed a walkoff victory against the Colorado Rockies.
5. Change of guard at catcher
St. Louis ended the 2022 year, addressing a need for the future. Who’s the next man up at catcher as Yadier Molina retires? The answer: Longtime rival and three-time All-Star backstop Willson Contreras.
Contreras joined the St. Louis Cardinals on a five-year, $87.5 million contract after seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs. It’s the Cardinals largest deal for a free agent who has not previously played with the team, and the experience of five 800-inning seasons in four 20-home run seasons makes it look promising. Contreras called his move to the Cardinals and the task to fill Molina’s shoes as one of the greatest honors of his life.
Only ten times in MLB history has a team slugged four consecutive home runs. The Cardinals accomplished that feat for the first time in franchise lore on July 2 in Philadelphia.
Nolan Arenado, one night fresh off a cycle, sparked the rally with a two-run home run. Young stars Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson each followed up with solo shots. All four home runs came with two outs against University of Missouri alum Kyle Gibson, helping the Cardinals jump out to a 5-0 lead. Arenado later sealed the win with a ninth-inning solo blast, his first two-home run game with the Cardinals.
3. Nolan’s rollin’
A standout second season for third baseman Nolan Arenado in St. Louis. The 31-year-old set a standard for offensive and defensive production rarely attained in baseball. Arenado thrived behind a .293 batting average, 30 home runs and 103 RBIs. And he finished with the best overall WAR (7.9) among position players.
His defense, even more impressive. Arenado finished Top 10 in outs above average (15), runs prevented (11), and turned a Cardinals franchise-record 42 double plays. Behind plenty of diving stops, barehanded plays and improbable outs, Arenado won his tenth consecutive Gold Glove Award at the hot corner and sixth straight Platinum Glove Award.
In late-October, Arenado announced he would retain the remainder of a contract the Cardinals inherited, rather than pursue free agency through an opt-out clause.
2. Goldschmidt’s Triple Crown push and MVP
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt flirted with the NL Triple Crown for much of the year, ultimately finishing among the league’s Top 5 in batting average (.317), home runs (35) and RBIs (115). It all adds up to a 7.8 WAR, one of the most productive hitting seasons in recent Cardinals history. His MVP honor was the first of his 12-year career and first for the Cardinals since 2009.
At 35 years old, Goldschmidt became the oldest player to win MVP since Barry Bonds did so in his age 40 season in 2004. He enjoyed a 46-game on-base streak and a 25-game hitting streak in the first half of the season, while also earning a Silver Slugger award and a Gold Glove nomination. In MLB Network’s award announcement show, Goldschmidt said, “This was my best year and the most fun I’ve had.”
1. One Last Ride Together: Pujols, Molina and Wainwright
The 2022 season marked the last time Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright all shared the field at Busch Stadium as St. Louis Cardinals teammates. In seven full seasons as teammates, from 2006 to 2011 and in 2022, the Pujols-Molina-Wainwright trio won two World Series together, shattered baseball records and set a standard that might not ever be matched again in Cardinals history.
Wainwright will return for one more season in 2023, but Pujols and Molina are now officially retired. Undoubtedly, these three accomplished so much in 2022 that they could have their own Top 10 moments list, and that might not do them justice.
Some of the top moments involving Pujols, Molina and Wainwright in 2022 include, but are not limited to…
- March 28: Pujols signed a one-year deal to rejoin the Cardinals after 11 years and announced his intent to retire at the end of the 2022 season.
- April 12: Pujols slugged his first home run with the Cardinals since Oct. 2011.
- May 15: Wainwright and Molina became the most winningest MLB starting battery. Pujols made a surprise pitching appearance in the ninth inning behind a large Cardinals lead. Molina followed up with his first pitching appearance in another blowout win one week later.
- June 28 and July 9: Adam Wainwright hid signed baseballs at Busch Stadium to spread cheer to fans in his self-coined “Day After Pitching Old Man Walks.”
- July 18: Pujols participated in the Home Run Derby at Dodger Stadium, a ballpark he called home as recently as last year, and regained his power stroke for a ride to 700 career home runs.
- Aug. 29: Pujols, within single-digits of 700 career home runs, crushed a round-tripper off his 450th career pitcher, a new MLB record.
- Sept. 10-11: Pujols matched and passed Alex Rodriguez for fourth place all-time on the MLB home runs list on back-to-back days in Pittsburgh.
- Sept. 14: Wainwright and Molina made their 325th career start as a MLB battery, officially passing Mickey Lolich and Bill Freehan of the Detroit Tigers for the most starts together in MLB history. Wainwright grinded through five innings of one-run ball to secure his 11th win of the season. The duo goes on the 328 combined starts.
- Sept. 23: More history! Albert Pujols works his magic in consecutive at-bats in back-to-back innings for home runs 699 and 700 of his MLB career. He becomes just the second player in MLB history with at least 700 home runs and 3,000 hits.
- Oct. 8: End of an era as the Cardinals dropped the NL Wild Card Series to the Phillies. Pujols picked up singles in his last two at-bats. Molina kept the season alive with a line-drive single down to his final strike. Both officially filed for retirement in November.