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Game 96 Open Thread: July 22, 2005

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carp zambrano
14-4, 2.34 7-4, 3.60

well, we've finally reached the end of our countdown to cubs. it started 30 games ago, back on june 17; the cards were 41-24 then, 6.5 games ahead of the cubs (34-30). perusing the schedules, i opined on that day that by the time st louis and chicago face each other, "the race may -- ought to -- be all but over."
over the next 30 games, the cards will play seven games against the two worst teams in baseball (tampa bay and colorado) and eight more against the two worst teams in the comedy central (houston and cincinnati). they have only four games against a plus-.500 opponent -- arizona, who may well be at or below .500 by the time we travel there in july. while the birds skip through that supposed competition, the cubs have to face two division leaders (the white sox and nats) and three wild-card contenders (fish, yankees, and braves). . . . . if the cards win 20 of those 30, they're disappointed; if the cubs win 20, they're sky high.

how'd it shake out? the cards did win 20 of 30, and yes it is just a tad disappointing. they suffered 2-2 splits at home against colorado, milwaukee, and pittsburgh, and lost a road series to the reds 1-2. but they made up for those sins with three sweeps -- of tampa bay, houston, and the reds (in a two-game set). and the cubs? well they slipped a makeup game in there somewhere, so they played 31 games, not 30. they went 14-17.

hence the cards doubled their lead, and the race is indeed all but over. yet both teams are scuffling in their own way -- the cards banged-up and weary, the cubs scrapping mightily for traction in the wild-card race. 13-game spread or no, it's an important series for both teams. the cubs may or may not be a playoff team, but they're certainly a playoff-type team -- strong starting pitchers, a dangerous lineup, hence a good challenge for the cardinals. two games are on national tv, which adds to the lifelike simulation of postseason conditions. like the houston series last weekend, this one should yield a helpful read on how certain key parts of the team (the bullpen, the bench) perform vs good competition in a high-profile atmosphere.

we'll get to know these guys pretty good down the stretch, and you never know but what we might play `em one extra series in october. so this is the first of 14, maybe 21. let's get it on.

Update [2005-7-22 18:2:50 by lboros]: bellyscratcher posts this heads-up in the comments: rolen to the dl, seabol recalled from memphis, per bernie's pressbox. thanks belly