Heading into the final ten games of the season, the Cardinals play one more game against the Rockies, go out to Milwaukee for three games, then head home to finish the season against the Nationals and the Cubs. They sit atop the division with 89 wins.
The Pirates are two games out now. They play one more game with the Padres (to whom they have dropped 3 straight games) and then play a three game series against the Reds. They follow with a three game series against the Cubs, then another series against the Reds to end the season.
The Reds are two-and-a-half games out. They have a day off tomorrow. They have a series with the Mets in between the aforementioned two series with the Pirates.
Elsewhere in the league, the Dodgers and Braves have almost mathematically sealed their divisions. Only the Nationals have a chance of sneaking into the Great NL Central Race, especially if the Cardinals tank their series against Washington and either the Reds beat up on the Pirates or vice versa across their 6 remaining games.
While there's nothing certain in baseball, and the Cardinals are just as capable of being swept in a three game series by the Brewers or the Cubs as any team, I do like playing the bulk of the remaining games 1) at home and 2) against teams that have nothing or very little to win. The Cubs and Brewers are out of contention, assured of losing season, and really have every incentive to lose at this point, to increase their draft pick status.
Certainly, the losing clubs lack a reason to push hard. In September, the Brewers have been giving starts to a hodge-podge of back-of-the-rotation guys, like Tyler Thornburg and John Hellweg. The Cubs are running non-entities Jake Arrieta and Chris Rusin out on the mound 40% of the time. Like I said, anything can happen in a short series, but our chances in any given game against those teams should be running at 60-70%.
We do need to keep an eye on an increasingly hobbled lineup. Allen Craig is out with an uncertain return date. Matt Adams had to leave the game last night with elbow soreness. Staff ace/stopper/walking-hyperbole-magnet Joe Kelly has a strained calf. Some other members of the team--Beltran, Holliday, Molina--can use any rest we can give them. It would be nice to gain a little lead in the division and be able to cruise through the Cubs series while giving some folks a little break. I somehow suspect that the division will stay closer than that, but that's my hope. Giving everybody some breathing room while the Pirates and Reds beat on each other in two series and (I hope) a seventh wild-card play-in game would set us up nicely for the postseason.
If you haven't seen the most recent review of where Kevin Siegrist, late inning relief phenom, came from, check it out. The Cardinals drafted Kevin Siegrist so late in the 2008 draft, the round in which he was drafted no longer exists. Barring another rule change, it is very likely that Kevin Siegrist will forever be the greatest prospect the Cardinals ever draft in the 41st round.
Adam Wainwright had another outstanding start last night, in the challenging Coors Field environment. It bumped his stats up to a more impressive level, but it's hard to see anything but an absolute collapse by Clay Kershaw taking the Cy Young out of his hands. Matt Harvey also had an astonishing season, but will miss 8-9 starts due to injury. Adam appears destined for another year as a bridesmaid, not a bride. Quick, someone photoshop him into a garish seafoam green dress!
Speaking of end-of-the-year-award bridesmaids, Matt Carpenter deserves serious MVP consideration, some second-place votes, but not the MVP award, which will almost certainly go to the very deserving Andrew McCutchen. I mostly hope that Matt Carpenter's very deserving case for second or third in the MVP votes doesn't get lost in the offense-heavy but ultimately less valuable overall cases for Paul Goldschmidt, Jayson Werth, or Joey Votto.
This close-second MVP performance was something I think no one saw coming. Even his being semi-competent at second base outstripped a lot of people's expectations. I hope he gets all the recognition he deserves for his outstanding performance in his first full MLB season.