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How the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals survived into the postseason

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An under-appreciated acquisition in the offseason helped the Cardinals to the best record in baseball in 2015.

Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

An 11-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on September 30 meant that the St. Louis Cardinals clinched both the NL Central title and the best record in baseball. It was the third straight division crown for St. Louis and 2015 will be the fifth consecutive year with the Cardinals in the postseason. With a 100-62 record, the Cardinals were also the first 100-win team in baseball since the 2011 Phillies, here's a look at how it went down:

Jayson Heyward provides a spark on offense

On November 17, the Cardinals pulled off one of the surprise moves of the offseason, trading pitcher Shelby Miller to the Braves for outfielder Jason Heyward. Heyward played a big role for the Cardinals in 2015, playing 154 games and hitting .293/.359/.439 with 13 home runs and 23 stolen bases. He also led Cardinals position players and was sixth among outfielders in baseball with 6.0 fWAR.

Adam Wainwright misses most of the season

Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright made just four starts this season before tearing his left Achilles' tendon on April 25. Wainwright, who finished in the top three in NL Cy Young voting in both 2013 and 2014, had allowed just four earned runs in 25 innings before going down with the injury that was supposed to keep him out for the rest of the season. However, Wainwright returned to action on September 30, making three relief appearances in the final week of the regular season. He will be in the Cardinals' bullpen in the postseason as well, looking to reprise his role on St. Louis' championship team in 2006.

John Lackey returns to prominence

In Wainwright's absence, veteran John Lackey stepped into his role as the Cardinals' most reliable pitcher. The 36-year-old posted a 2.77 ERA, the lowest of his career, in 218 innings this year and his 3.57 FIP and 142 ERA+ were his best marks since 2007, when he finished third in AL Cy Young voting with the Angels. He will also get the call in Game 1 of the NLDS against former teammate Jon Lester and the Cubs on Friday.