very good pitching matchup today --- two of the best young pitchers in the league.
congratulations to the cubs; they're the division champs, and deservedly so. since june 2, the day piniella staged his tantrum at 3d base in wrigley, they've gone 62-45 --- a .579 clip over most of four months. they've got the 2d-best pitching staff in the league, a steady defense, and enough dangerous hitters to do some damage; ryan dempster is a worry, though.
they won't be an easy out. nothing but good wishes to them from this cardinal fan.
i heard from Zubin this morning, who drew my attention to the palpable fear being evinced by the new york mets as they blow the division. they're now a game back with two games to play and will need some real luck to get into the playoffs; they've lost 5 in a row (all to sub-.500 teams) and 11 of their last 15. with 17 games to play, the mets had a 7-game lead, and they've blown all of it plus 1 --- which is the same thing, as Zubin points out, the the cardinals almost did last year. actually, the cards' implosion would have been even more precipitous --- with only 12 games to play, they had a 7-game lead and lost all but half a game of it in a week's time. but in the final two series of the year, they salvaged two wins on 8th-inning comebacks --- in both instances they trailed with 4 outs to go, but they pulled the games out.
the mets do not appear to have that sort of nerve. or maybe it's that they just don't have the pitching --- their team era since the all-star break is 4.66, nearly as weak as the cards' (4.68), and over the last 15 disastrous games their era is 6.17. with that kind of pitching, i'd be slump-shouldered too. . . . of course, that doesn't explain the disappearance of the mets' bats vs joel pineiro two nights ago. but you can't blame the hitters for this freefall --- since it began, the mets have a good team ops (.777) and an acceptable output of runs (4.5 a game). this one's on the arms.
unless something miraculous happens, the national league field will be chicago, philadelphia, san diego, and arizona.