ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) -- This marks a crucial point in the Cardinals' season. Three at home against the Astros. Three on the road against the Cubs. Three on the road versus the Astros once more.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are in Washington and Cincinnati for the next six.
So to recap: The Cardinals have nine games against teams that own the two worst records in baseball as the team chasing them for the final wild card spot has six versus teams that own the absolute best records in baseball. You think this is an opportunity to widen their one game lead? Just a little?
We can't forget the Cards will then finish off the season against those same Nationals and Reds...so this upcoming week is beyond crucial. If the Redbirds have, say, two or three games to mess with during that last week then they should be okay.
But if they don't widen their gap during this time and leave themselves with next to no margin for error? They're asking for trouble.
There is no (I repeat - NO) excuse for not take six games at minimum during this time. I'd even go so far as to say the Cards need to win seven. You're talking about an Astros club that's got a borderline comical -206 run differential, has scored the fewest runs of anyone (534) and has surrendered the fourth most of anyone (740) this season.
Their biggest threat offensively is, cough cough, Tyler Greene and they have a very realistic chance of surpassing the franchise record of 106 losses.
To be completely blunt, if the St. Louis Cardinals - with everything on the line in September - aren't good enough to handle the Astros then they don't deserve to be in the postseason. Period. You don't get lucky every year. The Braves choking down the stretch to finish 2011 by going 8-18 doesn't happen often. You take it when you can get it, but you don't count on it.
So while the Dodgers are not exactly playing the best baseball either - they've won just three of their last eight - in no way, shape or form does that mean the Cardinals can back into the postseason the way they did in 2006. The law of averages always comes true to form in the end.
The Cards will send Kyle Lohse, Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia to the mound during this first series of the easy stretch. You always feel confident throwing Lohse out there right now. He has given up more than three runs just twice in his last 19 starts. Ridiculous.
Lynn and Garcia are different stories. Lynn's been battling the command on his fastball for a while now and seemed to gain traction on that front in his last start. Will he build on that? Or will he revert to old form and put the Redbirds in a hole?
Garcia, meanwhile, is a strategic decision in that they're finding a way to get him a start at home where he excels. Everyone in the world knows Garcia is a Cy Young talent in the friendly confines of Busch Stadium (2.63 ERA in seven starts this year) while struggling mightily on the road (5.67 ERA in 10 starts). As long as that can stay true to form for another day the Cards will be happy.
One thing is clear, however. Playing the Astros and Cubs while the Dodgers will be facing the Nationals and Reds is a golden opportunity. No, wait, scratch that. It's a time to pick up much needed insurance. A one game lead going into that final week wouldn't be fun. But a two or three game lead?
Now that sounds much better.