With 10 games to go, the St. Louis Cardinals can't take a breather yet.
The Redbirds need to win at least six or seven of their remaining games to hold off the Pittsburgh Pirates and win another National League Central Division crown. That would leave St. Louis with 90 or 91 wins. The Pirates, with 11 games remaining, would have to go 9-2 to catch the Cardinals if St. Louis won six and 10-1 if the Birds won seven of 10.
It's seemed lately like the Pirates might not lose another game. But the Bucs, who have been able to beat up on several second division teams lately, will host the Milwaukee Brewers for a three-game set this weekend. That's good news because at least one of the teams has to lose -- and neither can afford it.
If the Cardinals do their part, a Milwaukee sweep of the Pirates would be ideal. But I would settle for the Brewers taking two of three.
St. Louis really needs to find a way to win all of their remaining series -- including defeating the Milwaukee Thursday to take two of three games in their current set. If the Cardinals can do that, they hold their fate in their own hands.
Remaining St. Louis games: One at home vs. Milwaukee, three at home vs. Cincinnati, three on the road against the Cubs, three on the road against the Diamondbacks.
Remaining Pittsburgh games: One at home vs. Boston, three at home vs. Milwaukee, four on the road against Atlanta, three on the road against Cincinnati.
Remaining Milwaukee games: One on the road against the Cardinals, three on the road against Pittsburgh, three on the road against the Reds and three at home against the Cubs.
Besides their games against each other, the Brewers and Pirates don't play other teams that are particularly imposing. Atlanta stands at the .500 mark. But the Braves are 5 1/2 games back of a wild card spot and seem to have sensed their goose is cooked. Atlanta has won two of its last eight games.
A determining factor could be how well each of the three remaining central division contenders play against Cincinnati. They're not only a common factor. Although they're inconsistent, the Reds have pretty good pitching and potentially dangerous lineup.