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back slaps all around

just a quick n dirty post this morning, as i’m racing to meet some work deadlines:

the brewers turned into the cardinals last night, blowing a 4-2 lead in the 9th inning at home to the reds --- one day after the cubs blew a 9th-inning lead to cincinnati. the brewers have lost 6 of their last 8 games and lead the phillies (who won last night) by just 3 games in the wild card race --- and they open up a 4-game series at philadelphia on thursday. the soft part of the brewers’ schedule is over; of their 18 remaining games, 10 are against the cubs and phillies. sabathia is supposed to pitch wednesday, which means he won’t be available in philadelphia . . . . that’ll be an interesting series, to be sure. the brewers have run into a bunch of tough pitching matchups, facing the league’s 2d-, 3d-, and 8th-ranked pitchers in era, and it shows; they’ve scored just 20 runs scored so far this month (2.5 per game) and batted .228 as a team. the 5th- and 7th-ranked guys (hamels and dempster, respectively) loom on their immediate horizon.

the cards are now 4 games back in the loss column with 19 to play, still close enough for us to entertain fantasies. our side’s schedule is roughly equivalent to milwaukee’s; st louis has 6 games remaining with the cubs and 4 with the diamondbacks, who likely will throw both haren and webb at them. the other 9 games are against easy competition (pittsburgh and cincinnati). but it doesn’t really matter who they’re playing at this point; the cards will have to win every game, no matter how tough the opposition. if you’re hungry to see this team in the postseason, consider the playoffs underway beginning right now. we made it! back slaps all around.

the astros made it, too ---- they won last night and are now just half a game back of the cardinals, though still a game behind in the loss column. here are the nl central standings so far in september:

astros 6 1
reds 4 3
cards 3 3
bucs 3 4
brewers 2 6
cubs 1 5

while the cards kick themselves for failing to exploit the brewers’ slump, the brewers are doing the same thing vis-vis the cubs, who actually are in a 1-7 nosedive (they lost their last two games in august). it probably won’t cost chicago the division, but it likely will deny them a chance to win 100 games, something they haven’t done since 1935. they’ve gone homerless in 6 of the 8 games, scoring 3 runs or fewer in all 6. they also are enduring a terrible stretch of bullpenning, with a 9.43 relief era in september.

a few quick notes of interest, and then i gotta wrap this up:

  • gary sheffield hit the 250,000th homer in mlb history last night. he hit no. 249,999 earlier in the game . . . . those were ##s 495 and 496 in sheffield’s career.
  • like palm beach last week, batavia led its playoff opener heading into the 8th inning . . . . and lost the game. adam reifer blew the save in the 9th, zach pitts lost it in the 12th. game 2 tonight.
  • matt leach will hold a live chat today at noon CDT. somebody ask him how likely he thinks it is that dave duncan will return next year.
  • after reaching base 6 times and driving in 3 vs the cards in his arizona debut, david eckstein went 0 for 11 in the dbacks’ sweep at los angeles.
  • pujols maintains a 1-point lead in the nl batting race. he’s the only major-league player with a slugging average higher than .600 so far this year ---- and he’s 49 points above that threshold. the next-best slugging average in baseball belongs to lance berkman, at .594. imagine what he might do if his elbow weren’t killing him . . . . .
  • ryan howard stands an excellent chance of becoming the first batter in big-league history to strike out 200 times in a season. he is at 186 with 18 games to play. howard set the record last year with 199 whiffffffs. . . .
  • the yankees are in 4th place. so are the tigers, whom many picked to win the whole thing after they added renteria, cabrera, and willis in the off-season.
  • with a win tonight, the cardinals can equal their 2007 win total.