The St. Louis Cardinals compiled baseball’s best record for the second consecutive year in 2005, concluding the campaign with a mark of 100-62 that left them 11 games ahead of the runner-up Houston Astros in the N.L. Central. The Astros’ 89-73 record earned them a spot in the playoffs as the senior circuit’s wild-card entry for the second straight time.
Once again the National League’s most well-balanced team, the Cardinals led the league with a team ERA of 3.49 and placed near the top of the circuit rankings in runs scored (805), team batting average (.270), team on-base percentage (.339), and team slugging average (.423).
The Cardinals’ deep starting rotation featured N.L. Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, who finished the season with a record of 21-5, an ERA of 2.83, 213 strikeouts, 242 innings pitched, four shutouts, and a league-leading seven complete games. Mark Mulder and Jeff Suppan each won 16 games, while Matt Morris posted 14 victories and Jason Marquis added another 13.
On offense, Jim Edmonds hit 29 homers, drove in 89 runs, and scored 88 others. David Eckstein batted .294 and scored 90 runs. Albert Pujols served as the driving force behind the Cardinals’ first-place finish, leading the league with 129 runs scored and placing among the leaders with 41 home runs, 117 runs batted in, a .330 batting average, 360 total bases, a .430 on-base percentage, and a .609 slugging average. After earning a top-five finish in the N.L. MVP voting in each of the four previous seasons, Pujols captured league MVP honors for the first time.
Placing third in the balloting was Chicago’s Derrek Lee, who posted arguably the most impressive numbers of anyone in the league. Although the Cubs finished fourth in the division, 21 games behind the first-place Cardinals, Lee had a monster season. The slugging first baseman hit 46 homers, knocked in 107 runs, scored 120 others, and topped the circuit with a .335 batting average, 199 hits, 50 doubles, 393 total bases, and a .662 slugging average.
The Astros’ rather anemic offense had no one the ilk of either Lee or Pujols. Third baseman Morgan Ensberg served as their primary power threat, finishing the season with 36 home runs, 101 runs batted in, 86 runs scored, and a .283 batting average. Nevertheless, the Astros made the playoffs as a wild card almost exclusively because of their outstanding pitching, which enabled them to overcome a horrific 15-30 start. The Astros nailed down the final playoff spot on the last day of the season after going on a 42-17 tear over the final two months of the campaign.
Houston’s starting rotation boasted three of the league’s finest pitchers. Poor run-support limited Roger Clemens to a record of only 13-8, even though he led all N.L. hurlers with an ERA of 1.87. Andy Pettitte finished 17-9, with an outstanding 2.39 earned run average. Roy Oswalt led the staff with 20 wins, against 12 losses, while pitching to a 2.94 ERA.
While the Cardinals won their division by compiling the best record in either league, the San Diego Padres captured the N.L. West title even though they finished just two games over .500. With Barry Bonds missing from San Francisco’s starting lineup for most of the year, the Padres snuck into the playoffs with a record of only 82-80. The runner-up Arizona Diamondbacks finished five games back, while the Giants came in third, seven games off the pace.
Jake Peavy, Trevor Hoffman, and Brian Giles were San Diego’s only standout performers. Peavy finished 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA. Hoffman had a hand in more than half the team's victories, saving 43 games and winning one other. Giles led the Padres with 83 runs batted in, 92 runs scored, and a .301 batting average.
While the teams out west struggled the entire year, the N.L. East proved to be the league's strongest division from top-to-bottom. Not one team finished below .500 and, with first-place Atlanta compiling a record of 90-72, virtually every squad remained in contention until the final two weeks of the season. The runner-up Phillies, with 88 victories, finished just two games back, with both Florida and New York finishing seven games off the pace.
The Marlins featured two of the league's best young players in pitcher Dontrelle Willis and leftfielder Miguel Cabrera. Willis compiled a record of 22-10, to lead all N.L. hurlers in victories. He also led the league with seven complete games and five shutouts, while pitching to an outstanding 2.63 ERA. Cabrera hit 33 home runs and placed among the league leaders with 116 runs batted in, 106 runs scored, 198 hits, and a .323 batting average. Veteran first baseman Carlos Delgado also had a big year for the Marlins. In his only season in Florida, Delgado hit 33 homers, knocked in 115 runs, and batted .301.
The second-place Phillies featured one of the league's top offenses, finishing second in the circuit with 807 runs scored and a .270 team batting average. In his first full season, second baseman Chase Utley hit 28 home runs, drove in 105 runs, scored 93 others, and batted .291. Bobby Abreu homered 24 times, knocked in 102 runs, scored another 104, batted .286, and drew 117 bases on balls. In only 88 games, N.L. Rookie of the Year Ryan Howard hit 22 homers and drove in 63 runs. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins batted .290, scored 115 runs, and stole 41 bases. Outfielder Pat Burrell batted .281 and led the team with 32 homers and 117 runs batted in.
Although the Braves found it difficult to separate themselves from the rest of the division over the course of the season, they captured their 11th straight N.L. East title, and their 14th consecutive division championship overall (they moved from the N.L. West to the N.L. East in 1994). Once again the division’s most well-rounded team, the Braves finished sixth in the league with a 3.98 team ERA, and they also placed fourth in the circuit with 769 runs scored and 184 home runs. John Smoltz served as Atlanta’s best pitcher, compiling a record of 14-7 and an ERA of 3.06. Meanwhile, Andruw Jones paced the Braves on offense, leading the league with 51 home runs and 128 runs batted in, and placing among the leaders with a .575 slugging average. His outstanding performance earned him a second-place finish in the N.L. MVP balloting.
While the Cardinals, to no one’s surprise, quickly disposed of the Padres in their Division Series matchup, the first-round series between the Astros and Braves turned out to be far more competitive. Although Houston needed only four games to eliminate Atlanta, the final contest evolved into a true classic. Rookie Chris Burke put the Astros into the NLCS by hitting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 18th inning that gave Houston a 7-6 victory in a five-hour and 50-minute marathon. Roger Clemens got the win by working three scoreless innings in relief.
The Astros subsequently gained a measure of revenge against the Cardinals in the NLCS, defeating in six games a team that eliminated them from the postseason one year earlier. Roy Oswalt earned NLCS MVP honors by winning both his starts and compiling a 1.29 ERA over 14 innings. However, Houston’s bubble burst against the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. The White Sox swept the Astros in four straight games, even though the outcomes of three of the four contests weren’t determined until the final at-bat.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 14 - At RFK Stadium, President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the Washington Nationals’ first home game.
• July 14 - The San Francisco Giants defeated their archrivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers, 4-3, for their 10,000th victory in the franchise's history.
• July 23- The Giants retired number 36 in honor of Gaylord Perry.
• Speedster Jose Reyes of the Mets paced the National League with 17 triples and 60 stolen bases.
• Houston’s signing of Roger Clemens to a one-year contract worth $18 million made Clemens the highest paid pitcher in the game.
• The Cardinals played their last game at Busch Stadium.
• San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman became just the third reliever to register 400 saves.
• On July 26, Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux logged his 3,000th strikeout to go with his 300-plus wins.
• Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins ended the season riding a 36-game hitting streak – the longest in the majors since 1987.
- 2005 NLCS, 2005 NLDS1, 2005 NLDS2, 2005 World Series, Albert Pujols, Andruw Jones, Andy Pettitte, Bobby Abreu, Brian Giles, Carlos Delgado, Chase Utley, Chris Burke, Chris Carpenter, David Eckstein, Derrek Lee, Dontrelle Willis, Greg Maddux, Houston Astros, Jake Peavy, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan, Jim Edmonds, Jimmy Rollins, John Smoltz, Jose Reyes, Mark Mulder, Matt Morris, Miguel Cabrera, Morgan Ensberg, Pat Burrell, Roger Clemens, Roy Oswalt, Ryan Howard, St. Louis Cardinals, Trevor Hoffman