That One Critical Thing

Going into the last 2 weeks of the season, lots of folks – yeah, me too – felt pretty good about the Cardinals’ chances of making the playoffs.  They’d won 11 of 13, both Colorado and Chicago were scuffling, St Louis had climbed within 2.5 games of both for a playoff spot, things were definitely looking up.

And, they had 7 games left against the Cubs.  Oh HO, here comes the Cubs collapse!  They’ll jump over Chicago (and Milwaukee too, but nobody ever talks about them) to win the NL Central. Their strong play inspired David Schoenfield to sing their praises and recall the echos of 2011.  (Note:  I am not making fun of David; the Cardinals certainly seemed to be on the fast track to a playoff berth 3 days ago).

Did their run reach it’s zenith in a bizarre fifth inning Friday that saw them get a run after a missed ball/strike call and a Lackey Meltdown(TM)?  That remains to be seen.

What is known is the Cubs erupted for 6 runs in the 6th on Friday to win 8-2; and St Louis couldn’t solve Kyle Hendricks yesterday, losing 3-1.  Coupled with the Rockies’ consecutive wins against San Diego, St Louis finds itself 4.5 back in both races with 14 to play.

Methinks we forgot one critical piece of the narrative in this run-up to the 2017 regular season endgame.  It takes two teams to make a rivalry.  St Louis would like nothing more than to knock the Cubs out of the playoffs; and I’m sure the feeling is mutual.

St Louis struggles against the Cubs.  Why?  Because this is a rivalry.  Since 2001 (and including yesterday’s result) St Louis is 147-143 against Chicago, but only 61-84 at Wrigley.  That’s 23 games under .500 on the road, over a stretch that included some really good Cardinals teams and some truly awful Cubs ones.  In the past seven seasons, St Louis has won only 5 series from the Cubs in the Friendly Confines.    Remember 2003, and the 5-game series at Wrigley?  St Louis entered that week in first place in the Central.  They left that series in third place, which is where they finished the season, after losing 4 of the 5 games.

This series is starting to remind me of that one.

Hope is not lost; there are still 14 games to go, and anything can happen.  Cleveland just won 22 in a row, the first time that’s happened in over a century.  Every game in September is important, and games in April count just as much as games in September, sure; but if any game this season is a must-win, today’s game is it.  Aside from finding yourself 3.5 games out is a much more attractive position than being 5.5 out, it also restores some hope that they could – could – catch and pass the Cubs during the upcoming 4-game series in St Louis.

Our rivals have had their fun the first two games of this series.  It’s high time to return the favor.

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