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St. Louis Cardinals Division Title Hopes: Strength of Schedule…

Good afternoon. Let’s talk schedules…

Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cardinals’ most likely challenger has reason to smile when they look at their schedule for the rest of the season. With games against the Phillies, Cubs, Red Sox, Reds, and Brewers, the Jolly Roger should expect to be flying high for much of the next three weeks. Four of those teams currently have losing records, and the Brewers are trying hard to finish with one. Unfortunately, the final week of the season for the Pirates could be their undoing. With an abysmal 31-41 road record, Pittsburgh plays seven straight games to close out the regular season. The first four…against the Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, a contending team with a winning record and a strong 40-31 record at home. Then, the final three games, although against the Cincinnati Reds, must be played in Great American Ballpark (GABP) where the Reds have actually compiled a winning record of 38-35. And let’s not forget the launching-pad nature of GABP in the first place.

Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are a mess, and based on their remaining schedule, things aren’t likely to get any better. Mired in another four-game losing streak, the Brew Crew has two more games against Stanton’s Marlins, a team that’s already beat them the last two nights in a row. After that, the Reds come to town — perhaps a breather if the Brewers were actually winning games right now — and then the real trouble begins. On September 16th, the Brewers hit the road for six games that will define their season, for better or worse. The first three games land in St. Louis against the hated Cardinals, who are 44-28 at home. The next three take place in Pittsburgh against the contending Pirates, also a 44-28 home team. If the Brewers can step up and gain ground, they get a relative break against the Reds…but in Cincinnati. Great American Ballpark could likely be the nail in their coffin. If not, they get to play the Cubs in Miller Park to wrap up the season. At a glance, that looks to be an advantage, given the friendly nature of Milwaukee’s stadium for the Brewers and the Cubs’ 29-45 road record…but it’s just as likely to turn against them when the Cubs’ young power hitters slug their way into the homer-friendly Miller Park. It’s no wonder the Brewers players look like zombies on the field lately. Maybe they took a long, hard look at their September schedule.

St. Louis Cardinals. The Redbirds have 17 games left. Of those games, nine are at home and eight are on the road. Only one of the remaining teams on their schedule has a winning record — the sinking Milwaukee Brewers at 74-71 — and those three games will be played in Busch Stadium where the Cardinals are 44-28. Of the remaining four teams, three — the Cubs, Rockies, and D-Backs — all have three of the worst records in Major League Baseball. And all four teams are in the midst of losing streaks. Combined, four of the five teams on the Cardinals remaining schedule have lost 15 games without a win (Brewers 4, Cubs 5, D-Backs 4, Rockies 2). Only the Reds have a current winning streak intact…a win streak of one. Threats do exist — namely, the three-game set against the power-hitting Cubs in Wrigley Field — but for the most part, the Cardinals should expect to enjoy the last few weeks of the season, especially considering they look to get the last two days of September off to rest and reshuffle their rotation before the playoffs start in October.

Oh…and the fact that the Brewers and Pirates will be beating up on each other in the final weeks of the season is going to make it just that much more difficult for one of them to mount a credible pursuit of the Cardinals.

— GO CARDS!!!

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