While the St. Louis Cardinals playing in Cincinnati against the Reds is not going to headline any of the national baseball programs, the reality is that tonight’s game kicks off a crucial stretch of the season for the team.
The Cardinals open the night 8.0 games in back of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and 0.5 games in back of Miami for the second Wild Card spot.
And just importantly, the schedule presents a clear opportunity for St. Louis over the next couple of weeks to close the gap between themselves and the Cubs before meeting for four games in Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals will play their next nine games against Cincinnati and Atlanta–a pair of teams in rebuild mode. The Cubs play Miami for two, Oakland for three, and then the Angels for two.
Just by nature of the off-days, St. Louis can pick up a full game if they win.
That would knock a game off and a couple more Cubs losses over this next stretch could lower the total to five or six before the series in Wrigley.
And what a series that would be with the chance for Chicago to stretch things back out or St. Louis to close the gap to only a couple of games.
Yes, it’s an if.
“If” the Cardinals win.
But this is the stretch where they can reclaim their season and set up one heck of a division race for the last month and a half of the season.
photo credit: Bill Greenblatt/UPI, Adam Hunger, Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports