On August 8, 2010, the St. Louis Cardinals arrived in Cincinnati for a three-game series against the division-leading Reds. Playing the heel, Brandon Phillips polluted the blood in this matchup with an insulting characterization of the Redbirds. The series is perhaps best remembered for its opening brawl during which the cowardly Johnny Cueto used his spiked feet to kick Jason LaRue into retirement and Chris Carpenter in the back. In the wake of the brawl, the Cardinals did their talking on the field, sweeping the Reds to snare sole possession on the division's top spot. The Cardinals won each of three games with the respective scores of 8-4, 6-1, and 6-3, totaling a +13 run differential. It was a dominating performance. The series was seemingly a statement-making one by the then-defending division champs. But the Cards faded down the stretch, allowing the Reds to win the divisional crown by a comfortable five games.
Fast forward to this weekend, after an earlier series win in St. Louis for the Cardinals on Easter weekend. The first-place Cardinals rolled into Cincinnati an offensive juggernaut with a solid starting rotation if a shaky bullpen. The bullpen shook away a ninth-inning lead on Friday and eventually the game in a 6-5 loss. On Saturday, the Reds dominated 7-3. While Ardolis Chapman did everything he could to make today's game interesting, the Cardinals' attempt at a serious comeback was thwarted by Francisco Cordero, who induced a fielder's choice grounder from Matt Holliday before striking out Lance Berkman to end the game as a 9-7 Reds win. The Reds swept the Cardinals out of town and out of first place with a series run differential of +7. After the series's final out, Cordero and Cueto seemed to attempt to add insults to the injurious sweep, plunking of Pujols, and past kicks, by engaging in a WWE Raw-esque jawing as the broadcast faded to black.
A sweep is never easy, especially against a primary competitor for the division crown, but it remains to be seen where this team now stands and how it will affect them going forward. Sweeps lend themselves exceptionally well to overreaction. We need only look to that point last August when the division seemed ours for the taking. Today, the sky is not falling, but with Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt slated to face our Hometown Nine tomorrow and Tuesday in St. Louis, the club's offensive numbers may be set to fall while the sky remains.