St. Louis Cardinals: Time to play like spoilers
The St. Louis Cardinals begin a three-game series against the rival (and media darling) Chicago Cubs. The Cubs could clinch the division during this series which would be terrible for Cardinal fans.
I am not looking forward to this series. There, I’ve said it. I cannot imagine that I am alone in that like of thinking. I would love for the St. Louis Cardinals to pull off a sweep of the Cubs again but I just don’t see that happening. Sorry.
So now what? I think we must realistically turn our attention then to the Cubs and the fact that they stand to clinch the NL Central during this series. Can you imagine?! Can you imagine the Cubs celebrating in Busch Stadium? I can almost certainly guarantee you that is what they are envisioning and to which they are aiming.
Entering play tonight, the Cubs magic number is five. Should the St. Louis Cardinals fall to them tonight, the magic number drops to three. If the same outcome befalls the birds tomorrow night, the magic number falls to only one with only the game on Wednesday standing between the Cubs and guaranteed postseason play.
My father has an excellent saying: “Teams with nothing to lose are the most to be feared.” This has stood true this season when the St. Louis Cardinals have faced the likes of the Reds and even the Brewers. These are the teams with players attempting to make a name for themselves. These are the teams playing spoilers.
And that is, in my opinion, what the St. Louis Cardinals need to become: a team with nothing to lose (with everything to lose). I believe the Cardinals need to change their approach in thinking about reaching postseason. I believe the St. Louis Cardinals need to begin to play each team they face as though they- the Cardinals- are playing spoilers.
And that is exactly what the St. Louis Cardinals need to do in this three-game series against the Cubs. The Cardinals need to play with a chip on their shoulder and must, against all odds, prevent the Cubs from clinching in Busch Stadium. The St. Louis Cardinals must, therefore, play their hearts out such that they spoil the Cubs wishes of celebrating in the rival’s stadium.
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Let’s take a quick look at the series match-ups. Tonight, Mike Leake (9-9, 4.61 ERA) will face Kyle Hendricks (14-7, 2.07 ERA). Tomorrow night, Jaime Garcia (10-12, 4.58 ERA) will attempt to right his shaky ship while facing-off against Jason Hammel (14-8, 3.50 ERA). Finally, the game that might provide a clinching chance for the Cubs has all-star Carlos Martinez (14-7, 3.05 ERA) facing John Lester (16-4, 2.51 ERA).
The match-ups seem to favor the Cubs but, on the bright side, these same St. Louis Cardinals swept the Cubs back in June and then later took 2-of-4 from the baby bears in Chicago. In June, the sweep was accomplished behind Garcia (pitching in this series), Adam Wainwright (not pitching in this series), and Michael Wacha (not pitching in this series).
On the losing side of the June St. Louis Cardinals sweep of Chicago were pitchers John Lackey (not pitching in this series), Hammel (pitching in this series), and Jake Arrieta (not pitching in this series). In the 2-of-4 series, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated two pen arms, Carl Edwards, Jr. and Hector Rondon. These two victories came late in the games, as has been the nature of recent games. This could bode well for the series.
It is a foregone conclusion that the Chicago Cubs will clinch the division but let us hope that it doesn’t happen in Busch. To this end, the St. Louis Cardinals need to win at least one game this series to force the Cubs to clinch elsewhere. Moreover, the Cardinals need to win to keep pace in, take their spot back, and hold the wild card spot if they wish to see postseason play in 2016.