By The Numbers: Let The NLC Battle Begin

The Cardinals were the best team in baseball before the All-Star break (even if the powers that be at Baseball Tonight refuse to acknowledge it in their first half review! … but I’m not bitter). That said, the quickest way to lose their winning edge is to dwell in the past. So, today, we move on.

The rest of the season is upon us, starting tonight as the Cards welcome in the Padres. The remaining schedule is chalk-full of division rivalry games, and in a tight division race, those games couldn’t possibly hold more weight.

NLCentral July 19Let’s look closer at the second half schedule, by the numbers.

69 – the total number of games remaining for the Cardinals (and the Pirates).

42 – the number of those games that are against National League Central foes. Nothing like some good old head-to-head battles to determine who is truly the best!

24 – the number of chances to knock down the Reds and Pirates directly. The Cardinals will play the Pirates 14 times and the Reds 10 times before the end of the season. (If you’re keeping track, that means just 18 of those 42 NLC games are with “other” teams.)

14 – the number of games already played against those two teams. They’re 6-3 against Cincinnati and 2-3 against Pittsburgh. I have a feeling Pittsburgh isn’t going to go away quietly like they have before. That means the upcoming series (of five games, thanks to a doubleheader) could really set the tone for how that battle might play out.

38 – how many home games left in the regular season. Busch Stadium hasn’t been quite as kind as usual to the Redbirds this season. They sit at 27-16 in St. Louis, but they actually have better road record at 30-20 thus far. You better believe, though, that the Cardinal faithful will do their part in making Busch a perfect setting for +.500 ball. (Then, we just hope that’s enough to hold off the other two teams playing +.500 ball, too!)

21 – the Cardinals will have a stretch of 21 games without an off day. This stretch includes the Phillies, the Braves, the Pirates (twice, including the upcoming five-game series), the Reds, the Dodgers, and the Cubs. Just six of those games are at Busch Stadium. The Pirates and Reds both have 20-game stretches. While Pittsburgh will face the Cardinals, the Rangers, the Cubs, the Padres and the Reds, Cincinnati manages to have the Padres, the Cubs, the Brewers (twice) and the Diamondbacks. Games aren’t won on paper, obviously, but the Cardinals certainly don’t have the easiest of those three schedules.

30 – That is the number of days Chris Carpenter can remain on a rehab assignment. That puts him at August 13, should he carry that timeline all the way out. That, then, is another number we can all watch for with baited breath. Who knows if Carp will be able to complete the comeback, but if he does, I’m certainly glad he’ll be on our side. I wouldn’t want to face Chris Carpenter in a pennant race, would you?!

8/26 – this marks the start of an intense, potentially season-determining sequence of games: they’ll play the Reds, the Pirates, then the Reds … then the Pirates, capped off by a three-game set with the Brew Crew. They’ll have a chance to pull ahead significantly, or to dig themselves a hole. Talk about a big two weeks, eh?

97.7According to Bernie, these Cards have pretty good odds of making the playoffs.

So, I see this two ways: 1) the Cardinals are in control of their own destiny. With so many games directly against their main competition, they can determine their own fate. Or, 2) with so many games against the tough NLC rivals, they could bury themselves before the second half even gets going.

I like option #1. Don’t you?

Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.

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