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For the Mildly Delusional…

Last night’s win against Arizona is the perfect example of what so many Cardinals fans hate about being Cardinals fans. With our win and the Brewers’ loss, the hopeful speculation began anew. “What IF the Cards could pull it out?!” and “Didn’t we nearly blow a 7 or 8 game lead in ’06?!” While I’m tempted to point out that we still did NOT blow that lead and we did NOT have the pitching the Brewers have this year, I’ll hold my tongue…mostly. Still, after last night’s win, we may not have reason to hope, but we can sure as hell speculate, right? So…with that in mind…wild, hopeless speculation…I’ve re-analyzed the remaining schedule for both the Brewers and the Cardinals below. Fair Warning: Reading this post may result in a completely unjustified sense of hope.

The following analysis breaks down each team the Brewers and Cardinals face as well as a possible win-loss record necessary for the Cardinals to make the playoffs. At the end of each breakdown, I throw in the “likelihood” that the match-up will end in the necessary win-loss scenario. First, the Brewers…

New York Mets (1 game): 0 wins-1 loss  The Brewers play their final game against the Mets today and neither Sheets nor CC are on the mound. They must lose this game. Likelihood: Good.

San Diego Padres (4 games): 3 wins-1 loss  This should be merely a bump in the road for the Brewers. The Padres have shown very little in the way of competition this year, but we’ll give them one win against the Brew Crew simply because Sheets and CC can’t pitch EVERY game in a four game series. Likelihood: Good.

Cincinnati Reds (6 games): 3 wins-3 losses  Oookay…this is the first “hitch” in our hopeful speculation. Expecting the Reds to pull off a series split with the Brewers in September is expecting a lot. However, reasons to be hopeful include 3 games in Cincinnati, Edison Volquez, and the fact that the 3 home games (in Milwaukee) come immediately before the all-important Phillies series for the Brewers. Can you say “trap series?” All in all, the Reds have always been sporadically competative when compared with other perennial bottom-feeders. Likelihood: Poor.

Philadelphia Phillies (4 games): 1 win-3 losses  Who the hell knows what to expect from this series? The Phillies could pummel the Brewers, or they could get pummelled. It all depends on which team shows up. However, reasons to be hopeful include the Phillies success against lefties (i.e. CC), the fact that the games are in Philadelphia, and…well…Ryan Howard.  Still, both lineups are offensively potent, but the Phillies pitching just doesn’t match-up to the Brew Crew’s two-headed monster. Likelihood: Fair.

Chicago Cubs (6 games): 2 wins-4 losses  I can’t believe I’m actually rooting for the Cubs; but with no more match-ups between the Brewers and the Cardinals this season, we have to play vicariously through the small bears. The Cubs have played the Brew Crew extremely tough this season (including an impressive series sweep), but Z’s recent arm troubles have me worried. Regardless, this match-up is key for both the Cards and the Brewers. Likelihood: Fair.

Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games): 2 wins-1 loss  The final match-up is a somewhat promising one. Even though the Pirates no longer boast the likes of Bay and Nady, they still have the potential to “show up” once in a 3 game series. With the other teams the Brewers will be facing, I have a hard time believing they would spend both CC and Sheets in a short series against the Buccos. That means the Pirates will have a somewhat decent chance at least 2 out of the 3 games against the Brewers. Of course, the Pirates’ pitching is nothing to write home about. Likelihood: Fair.

All in all, considering the Brewers season-ending collapse last year…it could happen. But the Brew Crew win-loss record is only one-third of the equation. On to the Cardinals…

Arizona Diamondbacks (5 games): 3 wins-2 losses  The D-backs are a tough team. They hit up and down the lineup, and even though we were lucky enough to avoid their 1-2 combination of Webb and Haren the first time around, we won’t be so lucky in Busch. The Cards need to pull out a win today so they can afford to lose the Webb and Haren games later in the month. Likelihood: Fair.

Florida Marlins (3 games): 3 wins-0 losses  Honestly, I don’t see this one happening. It’s not that we can’t match up to the Marlins (we looked pretty good against them earlier in the season)…but I doubt our ability to sweep a series. A 2 – 1 record is more likely here. When it comes to series sweeps in ’08, the Cards are cursed. Likelihood: Poor.

Chicago Cubs (6 games): 3 wins-3 losses  Whoa, Nelly. If everything goes well up to this point, this Cubs/Cards series will be HUGE. The good news…we don’t have to win the series. We do, however, need to split the series. The better news…we’ve played the Cubs better than the Brewers this year and Z is hurting while Waino looks strong. Likelihood: Fair.

Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games): 3 wins-0 losses  Again, we face the sweep. It’s appropriate that the season could come down to the Cards’ inability to sweep bad teams…but champions MUST be able to sweep a last-place-worthy team in a 3 game series. We must prove “we are worthy.” But…bottomline…I don’t see us being able to do something we have rarely been able to do all season. Likelihood: Poor.

Cincinnati Reds (6 games): 5 wins-1 loss  Speaking of sweeps…here we go again. While the Cards don’t have to win all 6 games against the Reds, we DO have to win 5 of them…and that means we would have to sweep one of the 3 game sets. Need I repeat myself here? Likelihood: Poor.

So…if the Brew Crew’s record AND the Cardinals’ record follow the above plans, their final season records would look like this: Brewers 91 wins-71 losses. Cardinals 92 wins-70 losses. We would finish ahead of the Milwaukee Punks…um…I mean Brewers. However, finishing ahead of the Brewers does NOT mean a Wild Card playoff birth.

Our four losses over the weekend opened the door for the Philadelphia Phillies to jump right back in it. If the Brewers are one third of the equation and the Cardinals are one third of the equation…that means the final third of the equation is what I like to call the “Phillie Factor.”

With the above analysis giving the Phillies 3 wins against the Brewers, that means the Phillies must lose at least 7 of their remaining games. Ten of those remaining games are against the Nationals and Braves. Not very good odds.

So…what does it all mean? Well…all things considered (Phillies pitching, Brewers tendency to implode in September, and Tony La Russa’s record of finishing strong…last 2 years not withstanding), a pessimistic person would have to give the Cards’ chances a POOR+ (plus)…however, an optimistic person (and mildly delusional) could sleep at night by rating the Cardinals’ chances at FAIR- (minus). Either way…it’s not good.

But…what the hell…GO CARDS!!!

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