Game 162 was finally upon us and with it the conclusion that had been foregone for at least a fortnight. The Chicago Cubs season would end with an unceremonious thud that represented so much more than the first time in five years that the Cubs season ended at game 162. Joe Maddon's fate had been sealed far before the downturn that ended the 2019 campaign. It had probably been sealed before the several months doldrums that gave the Cardinals and Brewers a chance to claim the Central playoff spots. There was perhaps some symmetry with Joe Maddon's reign as Cubs manager coming to an end in St. Louis. It was there in 2015 that the era began with a bang with the first playoff meeting of the Cardinals, and the era ended with a whimper in St. Louis just under five years later from that moment.
The pitching matchup told you how this one was likely to go with Derek Holland facing Jack Flaherty. The Cardinals ace dominated the Cubs lineup through seven innings. Flaherty faced the minimum through six and two thirds innings with Willson Contreras being thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double with one out in the second. Robel Garcia hit a pinch hit infield single to lead off the fifth, but he was erased on an inning ending double play. Ian Happ drew a two out walk in the seventh inning.
The Cardinals would have no issues facing a parade of Cubs relievers. Derek Holland was the nominal starter and he began about as bad as you possible can be with back to back walks to start the game. Paul Goldschmidt bounced a single to score Dexter Fowler. Holland induced a groundball double play from Marcell Ozuna that scored Tommy Edman. Yadier Molina drew a walk, but a Matt Carpenter fielder's choice ended the first frame with a 2-0 Cardinals lead.
Holland retired the first two Cardinals he faced in the second inning. Jack Flaherty smacked a single into left field to keep the inning alive. Dexter Fowler launched home run number 19 on the season to put the Cardinals ahead 4-0.
Holland would try to get through another inning. Paul Goldschmidt hit his second groundball single to start the inning, and he stole second easily off the lefty. Ozuna singled to drive in Goldschmidt. A walk to Yadier Molina was the final straw for Holland's outing. Duane Underwood Jr. faced Matt Carpenter and gave up a bomb to see the Cardinals lead explode to 8-0. Underwood plunked Paul DeJong before retiring the next three Cardinals.
Paul Goldschmidt launched a one out homer in the fourth inning against Underwood. The 9-0 lead would be more than enough for Flaherty. James Norwood worked around some traffic and some hard contact in the fifth inning. Norwood put the first zero on the board. Norwood would put another zero on the board in the sixth inning. He worked around a two out walk to Yadier Molina in this frame, but the Cardinals lead remained in the single digits for at least another inning.
Dillon Maples was the next Cubs hurler. He retired the bottom of the Cardinals order in order including mercifully a pinch hitter for Jack Flaherty. Victor Caratini delivered a one out single against Giovanny Gallegos, but Nico Hoerner bounced into an inning ending double play. Ben Zobrist shifted from shortstop to pitcher in the bottom half of the eighth. Zobrist walked former teammate Dexter Fowler to start the inning. Tommy Edman lined out to Hoerner in center for the first out. Zobrist threw four straight bad ones to Goldschmidt in the next plate appearance. Ozuna hit an infield fly for the second out. And then likely to end his Cubs career, Zo punched out Yadier Molina swinging to end the eighth.
Carlos Martinez faced Daniel Descalso to start the ninth inning. Descalso put a charge into the first pitch but Bader was able to make an awkward catch for the first out. Martinez made quick work of the next two Cubs hitters, and the Cardinals did get to celebrate winning another NL Central crown at the Cubs expense.
In some ways it is a relief to be done with the frustration that was the 2019 Cubs, but in many ways I am not ready for this era to end. The Cubs are saying goodbye to a number of the people that made this the most successful stretch of Cubs baseball since the first World War was fought. Ben Zobrist and Pedro Strop both likely put on a Cubs uniform for the final time. There is also Cole Hamels, Steve Cishek, and Brandon Kintzler who are without contracts for 2020. The next iteration of the Cubs is going to look radically different for the first time in five years, and for now it is more than a little twinge of sadness that this is how the era ends.