The NL Central giveth; the NL Central taketh.
Riding a surge of momentum into the All-Star break (and immediately after), the Cardinals closed the gap between themselves and the Brewers for the NL Central lead. 3 consecutive losses in 5 days has shoved the Birds back down into 3rd place, 3 games in arrears.
Enter the Cubs.
The only team that is out of the hunt for the playoffs in the NL Central, they’re suddenly thrust into a starring role. They will be the arbitrators, of sort, in deciding the fate of 4 other teams.
Beat the Cubs. Go to the playoffs.
The Pirates, Brewers, Reds and Cardinals will probably not go on big winning streaks against each other. It hasn’t happened so far in 2014 and truth be told, I’m not sure any of them are good enough to start now.
But the Cubs? They stink. And the Cardinals have 10 games remaining with them (roughly 1/6th of all remaining games). Win 8 out of 10 and the playoffs should be obtainable. Lose 4 or more? Nothing is impossible, but you have to figure the division winner will be the team that can obliterate the one foe that doesn’t have anything to play for.
Starting Friday afternoon, the Cardinals start a 3 game set in Wrigley Field. They haven’t won since Saturday. They’ve gotten their beauty sleep. It’s time to step it up.
Like the old saying goes… if you want to be the best, you have to beat the worst.