I think a lot of us would have been pretty pleased if we were told at the All-Star Break that the St. Louis Cardinals would have a one-game lead in the National League Central with three games to play.
But that was before our hearts sank into our shoes Wednesday when the Cardinals fumbled away a lead against an Arizona Diamondbacks team with nothing left to play for. Don’t tell me we should be grateful just to be here. This is the big leagues and, if the Cardinals don’t convert their chance to win their division after holding a three game lead with six games to play, it’s going to be a pretty major disappointment — sort of like all the times St. Louis stranded a runner on third base after he landed there with less than two outs rolled into one.
Let’s not make excuses for the Cardinals. I don’t care if the Milwaukee Brewers have won 50 games in a row. That’s not their concern. If St. Louis would have won two out of three against the Diamondbacks and then went on to win two out of three against the Cubs, there would have been nothing the Brewers could have done to catch them. Instead, after being humiliated by the Cardinals at Wrigley Field last week, Chicago has a chance for some revenge the final week of the season at Busch Stadium.
It would be great if the Cardinals could win the opener — and somehow the Colorado Rockies could muster up the fortitude to beat Milwaukee in game one. Then St. Louis has two chances to clinch the division title and an insurance policy of knowing that if the Brewers lost one more game, the Cardinals would back their way into a National League Divisional Series against the Atlanta Braves.
The Cardinals are going to be in the postseason one way or another. But do they want to have to beat the Washington Nationals in the wild card game for the opportunity to face the deep and powerful Los Angeles Dodgers with three of the five games on the road? I was kind of hoping the Brewers would use the last of their hot streak to defeat the Dodgers and then they’d come to St. Louis out of gas.
Unfortunately, the way things are shaping up is sort of Bizzaro World version of the 2011 postseason when the cocky Brewers proclaimed the Redbirds’ playoff chances to be dead — and then got beaten by the wild card Cardinals who went on to win the World Series over the Texas Rangers.
With a good Friday night, the Cardinals could put themselves in a position where they can set their pitching up for the playoffs instead of having to fight until the bitter end. However, if St. Louis loses to the Cubs and the Brewers win their game, the playoffs have officially started and the home team could find itself not only playing a wild card game — but also a tie breaker. No one south of Chicago wants to see that happen.