Much of the attention in the NL Central over the past couple of weeks has been centered on the upstart Cincinnati Reds. And rightfully so. The Reds currently are leading the “heavily favored” St. Louis Cardinals by 7 games as we head down the final 30 game stretch. They also just brought up the Cuban sensation Aroldis Chapman. Who truly looked like he was throwing “missiles” last night. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that the Cardinals thoroughly embarrassed the Reds in Cincinnati? A weekend where the Cardinals showed why they have sat atop the NL Central frequently for years now. Many Cincinnati fans and probably much of the national baseball fan base had decided that the Reds were “pretenders” and on their way to a sad slide out of contention.
Well since that awful sweep. The Reds have gone 13 and 4, while the Cardinals have gone 5 and 12, struggling with cellar dwellers such as the Nationals, Pirates, and Astros. What is going on? How is the great Tony Larussa letting this happen with the best all around player in baseball (Pujols) and the best starting pitching combo in baseball (Wainwright/Carpenter)?
First of all, the team simply has not been hitting. They were shut out again last night, for the 2nd consecutive game, and the 3rd time since their visit to Cincy. In addition, they have been held to 3 or fewer runs in 9 of their last 17 games. Also their big 3, Carpenter, Wainwright, and Garcia have struggled. Lastly, the confidence just isn’t there. If you get a chance to tune into a Cardinals game, watch the expressions of their players. The usual St. Louis swagger just does not seem to be there. Many thought they were seeing the beginning of a Red’s downward spiral following the series with the Cards in early August. But it was really foreshadowing of two teams heading in opposite directions.
Now are the Cardinals down and out? No. But they are getting pretty darn close and must take at least 2 of 3 against the Reds this weekend to even have a prayer of catching up with the Cincinnati boys. When looking ahead at the Cardinals remaining schedule, they still have 15 games against teams that have winning records. The Reds only have 10 games against teams with winning records, and 3 of those are against St. Louis. So the odds are continuing to look more and more against Larussa and the Cardinals as we enter the home stretch of this amazing season.
The Cardinals have been to the playoffs 6 times since 2001 for a reason, while the Reds have not made the playoffs since 1995. So the Cardinals are sliding. But they have not slid out of the race entirely yet.
Can the Reds shut the door this weekend in St. Louis or will the Cardinals keep the door ajar?
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.