Think back to two weeks ago this morning, July 26.
We were feeling good, right? The Cardinals just swept the Phillies the night before for their fourth straight win, were 62-37 and lead the National League Central by 2 1/2 games over the Pirates. They were starting an 11-game road trip to Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati followed by a four-game series at Busch Stadium against Dodgers — the chance to challenge themselves against the two other NL division leaders and the two Central contenders.
And now here we are.
This morning the Cardinals are 66-48 after last night’s 5-1 loss, in second place in the NL Central four games behind the Pirates. In the last two weeks, those important 15 games, they went 4-11 and had a season-high seven-game losing streak. The only series they won was against the Reds, the only team that trails them. Swept by the Braves. Losers of four of five to the Pirates, three of four to the Dodgers.
So what to make of this test?
Sure, the games they won were fun — who doesn’t like watching an explosion of offense for 13, 13 and 15 runs against the Pirates and Reds, and continuing to master an ace like Clayton Kershaw? But then there were the rest of the games. Few of them were blowouts — two of the losses to the Pirates at 9-2 and 6-0 and Wednesday night’s 13-4 debacle against the Dodgers were the worst — and that makes this stretch even tougher to take.
The Cardinals were in most of these games. They had chances to win. They just didn’t.
So, again, what to make of this test?
Maybe nothing. Any 15-game stretch is kind of random in a way — except when you look at the opponents, and when you look at how that opposition is playing. The Dodgers have come from last place to first in the NL West since June 30. The Pirates have won five straight and are 10-4 in the last two weeks. The Braves have won 13 straight and haven’t lost since the game before the series against the Cardinals began. All are hot teams.
Yet maybe there is something to make of it too. To get to the postseason, to be successful in the postseason, you have to be able to beat good teams — those are the teams who are there, obviously. And the Dodgers, Pirates and Braves are good teams.
Sure, the Cardinals are capable of playing better. We’ve seen them do so. Yet they haven’t been. They can. But will they?
I obviously don’t have the answers, and none of us really do. The games on the field are what matter.
Big series still remain, with nine games still left against the Pirates, four against the Braves and six against the Reds. Everything can work out just fine for the Cardinals, depending on how they do — nine games against the Pirates obviously show nothing is decided yet.
But I don’t necessarily feel comfortable after what I’ve been watching these past two weeks.
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Christine Coleman is the creator, lead writer and editor of Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.