Baseball

Series Preview – Cardinals vs. Cubs: Death Smiles At Us All

vs.

RECORDS: Cardinals 85-67   Cubs 82-70

GAMETIMES: Thursday 6:15, Friday-Sunday 1:20

TV: Fox Thursday, ABC 7 Friday, WGN Saturday, NBCSN Sunday

I DON’T LIKE YOU EITHER: Viva El Birdos

SERIES PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Cardinals Spotlight: Doing What They Wouldn’t

And so it’s come to this. After a four-year stretch where it generally felt like the Cubs had switched the dynamic on THE AULD RIVAL FROM THE SOUTH, everyone in blue is prepping for the most gruesome of deaths. Maybe it comes this weekend. Maybe the more cruel twist comes on the final weekend of the season. Either way, a feeling you thought you might have left behind has come roaring back. It’s almost comforting in a way, because we’ve lived with it for so long.

Oh, but there’s hope too. A hope that this infuriating, unsatisfying, unenjoyable season could find salvation. Perhaps the previous five and a half months wouldn’t sting as badly if it ends by sticking it to the Cardinals over seven games in 11 days. Perhaps the stale and foul taste of this season can be washed away. It’s possible, it’s just that it’s not something we’re accustomed to.

In all likelihood, the Cubs have to take at least five of the seven games on offer from The Red Menace. And even that could only likely ensure a tie, as in the interim the Cubs have the Pirates while the Cardinals have three games that looked like they might be treacherous a couple weeks ago against the Diamondbacks, but assuredly aren’t now. Anything less than a sweep of the Pirates could doom the Cubs. But we’ll get there.

A split here and it’s over. Three games down with six to go means even a 6-0 finish isn’t going to be enough. And of course there’s the small matter of the Brewers lurking as well, and they finish with one against San Diego today, and then Pirates, Reds, Rockies. It could open up for them if the Cubs and Cardinals hold each other in place.

And the real fear is that the Cardinals can expose two of the bigger problems the Cubs have through their rotation. One is that the absence of Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez is just too much to carry. The second is that the inconsistency within the Cubs rotation is another they can’t overcome thanks to the solidity of the Cardinals’ staff. The second one is debatable, as the matchups have come out ok. Both will throw top of the rotation guys in Kyle Hendricks and Jack Flaherty tonight. Both will throw question marks in Jose Quintana and Michael Wacha tomorrow, though you’d trust Q slightly more than Wacha. The weekend finishes with what look like advantages for one team (Saturday for the Cards with Hudson, Sunday for the Cubs with Darvish). But baseball doesn’t work that way.

While the Cardinals offense over the whole of the season hasn’t been impressive, it’s been more than enough of late to go by the Cubs as they sat around poking a carcass with a stick. Perhaps it was their own. Tommy Edman, the kind of young go-getter the Cardinals always produce that pop for a few weeks and make you want to reach through the screen and either throttle him or just yourself before they sink back into anonymity, has been their hottest hitter. Right behind him is the Shit Demon behind the plate, and you’re already picturing some piece of garbage off his fists landing softly enough over Zobrist’s head to not actually make a sound to drive in two in the 7th of one of these. You’ve seen it too many times. Kolten Wong and Paul Goldschmidt are both on one as well, so the challenge is set.

And you don’t want to be trailing this team late, because they’ve fashioned quite the shutdown pen of late. I wouldn’t trust Carlos Martinez with anything valuable, too many memories of him going to the zoo at the slightest hint of trouble, but he also hasn’t given up an earned run in a month. Ryan Helsly, Giovanny Gallegos, and Dominic Leone have all been great the past month. The Cardinals know exactly how they’re getting to the last out. The Cubs have to guess every night.

It doesn’t shape up well. But it doesn’t have to. A Bryant or Schwarber binge. Quintana rediscovering what worked in August to join what Hendricks and Darvish have continually been doing. A meltdown from any Cardinal reliever, and it could all swing back.

The Cubs have a lot to overcome without even considering the opponent, like injuries and general malaise. We’ll find out if they can ever truly lock it in as they claimed they would all season, or if they’ve always wanted it to just be over like most of us have.

Pessimism is for assholes. C’mon Cubs, give us a reason to keep hoping for at least another week. We’ve got nothing else to do anyway.

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