The first clash of the 2017 season between the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals featured the defending World Series Champions winning two of three at Busch Stadium.
By the end of the day last Sunday, it had been an almost perfect twelve hours for St. Louis sports fans. It all began when Yadier Molina signed a three-year extension with the St. Louis Cardinals. In the afternoon, the St. Louis Blues defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-1. Just down the street that evening, the Cardinals walked off with a 4-3 victory on Opening Day over their division rival, the Chicago Cubs.
Sunday was followed by an off day Monday, when the Cardinals announced another contract extension, this one, a six-year deal with right fielder Stephen Piscotty. On Tuesday, the Cubs evened the series, edging St. Louis 2-1. That was followed with another spare day on Wednesday, this time because of a rainout.
The rubber game of the three game series was made up Thursday, and the Cubs defeated the Cardinals 6-4. Winning two of three in the opening set, the Northsiders got the best of the Birds in the first meeting between the National League Central Division’s two best teams. The Cubs and Cardinals will see each other next May 12-14, again in St. Louis, for a weekend series.
The pessimist looks at this series and is upset that the Cardinals lost two games to the team they’ll be trying to unseat from first place this season. He points to the blown leads by the bullpen, the low average with runners in scoring position, the strikeouts up and down the lineup, the managerial blunders, and other anecdotes to support the notion that the Cardinals need to address some early concerns.
The optimist says this was only the first three games of a 162-game schedule; there’s 159 to go.
He figures the Cardinals put up a good fight against the Cubs; they lost their two games by a total of three runs combined. They won on Opening Day behind a sterling performance from their young ace, Carlos Martinez. Every regular in the lineup had a base hit, and Seung-Hwan Oh and Brett Cecil won’t be that bad all year.
The realist knows these games were important because they were against the Cubs. He knows the first two months of the Cardinals’ schedule won’t get much easier. St. Louis plays the Nationals, Yankees, Blue Jays, Cubs again, Giants, and Dodgers twice before the summer months begin. Every game against the Cubs counts if the Cardinals want to contend for the Central Division crown.
But at the same time, the realist knows the Cardinals have sixteen more matchups with Chicago. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
Some concerns about these three games are merited, while others need not be blown out of proportion. There can be a rational discussion about the product the Cardinals put on the field without going overboard.
Let’s not declare that every piece of the Cardinals’ performance this week against the Cubs will surely be indicative of the season to come. Instead, let’s take the series for what it was and analyze it in its proper context.