When he rounded the bases Sunday for the Cardinals’ lonely run, Randal Grichuk never slowed down to consider it could be for the final time.

Manager Mike Matheny approached Grichuk before his spot came up again in the ninth inning of the Cardinals’ season-ending, 6-1 loss to Milwaukee at Busch Stadium and told him he was being lifted for a pinch-hitter. One of only two players in the starting lineup with more than 61 games in the majors, Grichuk shelved his helmet.

His last swing of the season would be a home run.

“I get it. Go out on a high at-bat, feel-good at-bat and go into the offseason with that good feeling,” Grichuk said. “It didn’t even cross my mind until it happened.”

With little fanfare and fewer runs, the Cardinals’ 125th anniversary season ended with seven rookies in the getaway-day lineup, 83 wins, more than 3.4 million tickets sold, and dozens of concerns to address in the offseason. Among the most pressing is what to do with a stockpile of outfielders like Grichuk, the want of a fearsome hitter, and whether the answer is pooling depth to deal for damage.

For the 66th time the Cardinals scored fewer than four runs, and 52 of their 79 losses came in those games. So did some of their issues. An inconsistent offense early exposed flaws in the bullpen and couldn’t mask errors elsewhere. Such issues led to a second consecutive season without reaching the playoffs. As an organization, the Cardinals measure themselves by their Octobers, and in five consecutive seasons they have taken a step back from that goal: An NL pennant and World Series loss in 2013 … a championship series loss in 2014 … a division series loss in 2015 … a second-place finish in 2016 … and here, today, now ...

Third place.