The St. Louis Cardinals Are Sitting in the NL Central Catbird's Seat

Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

The lack of head-to-head games remaining against the Reds and Pirates as well as the Cardinals' remaining opponents has them well-positioned to win their first division title since 2009.

For a baseball fan there's little more enjoyable than a September game that determines who will have sole possession of first place. The Cardinals played two such games at Busch Stadium this weekend. Thankfully, the Redbirds won't have any more.

The Pittsburgh Pirates arrived in St. Louis a first-place team in the Central division driver's seat. The only way they would leave St. Louis not in first place was a sweep. As you know, the Cards got out their brooms and swept the scurvy Pirates off the deck of the good ship First Place. Such is the power of head-to-head match-ups with your competition. This is why it's good news for the Cardinals that they will not play either the Reds or Pirates again this regular season. Cincy and Pitt can only hope the Cardinals lose enough of their remaining games so that they can caught; neither club can beat St. Louis again in head-to-head competition before the postseason.

The NL Central standings are very tight as we enter the season's final three weeks of play.

NL CENTRAL STANDINGS

Club

Wins

Losses

Win Pct.

DIV. GB

W.C.

Run Diff.

STL

83

60

.580

-

+9.5

+147

PIT

81

61

.570

1.5

+8.0

+39

CIN

82

62

.569

1.5

+8.0

+103

The Pirates and Reds are side-by-side, breathing down the Cardinals necks. El Birdos' competition for the division crown will have ample opportunity to beat one another up before season's end. That is a big reason why their respective schedules are more difficult than the Redbirds'.

PIRATES' REMAINING SCHEDULE

Opponent

Games Vs.

Run Diff.

Weighted

@ TEX

3

+76

228

vs. CHC

4

-54

-216

vs. SD

4

-93

-372

vs. CIN

3

+103

309

@ CHC

3

-54

-162

@ CIN

3

+103

309

Total

20

+81

+96

REDS' REMAINING SCHEDULE

Opponent

Games Vs.

Run Diff.

Weighted

vs. CHC

3

-54

-162

@ MIL

3

-62

-186

@ HOU

3

-202

-606

@ PIT

3

+39

+117

vs. NYM

3

-44

-132

vs. PIT

3

+39

+117

Total

18

-284

-852

CARDINALS' REMAINING SCHEDULE

Opponent

Games Vs.

Run Diff.

Weighted

vs. MIL

3

-62

-186

vs. SEA

3

-100

-300

@ COL

4

-19

-57

@ MIL

3

-62

-186

vs. WAS

3

-12

-36

vs. CHC

3

-54

-162

Total

19

-309

-927

A 1.5-game lead is far too close for comfort. Nonetheless, the Cardinals are sitting in the catbird's seat as the season winds down. That the Reds and Pirates won't be able to make up full games in the standings via head-to-head wins over the Cardinals works to their advantage. So does the three clubs' relative schedule strengths. To win the division and avoid the Wild Card play-in game, St. Louis needs to beat up on the Brewers, Mariners, Rockies, Nationals, and Cubs.

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