A week ago, the National League Central race looked set and done with the St. Louis Cardinals seemingly bound to win it.
With the best record in the majors, and the Pittsburgh Pirates still trying to catch up, the NL Central seemed to belong to the Cardinals.
Not so certain
Fast forward one week and, while the Cardinals still have the best record in the major leagues, their lead has shrunk as the Pirates, and even the Cubs to some extent, are back in contention for first place.
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Before the Chicago Cubs opened their three-game set against the Cardinals, St. Louis had an 8.5 game lead on the Cubs and a 5.5 march on the Pirates. As of the 15th of September, their lead on the Pirates is only 2.5 games.
Nevertheless, the Cardinals have played tremendous baseball throughout the season, as Maddon says, "Give the Cardinals credit. They have not blinked at all." But this was a week ago. Since then the Cardinals have blinked, squinted, and winked.
After losing the series finale of their games with the Nationals, they were outscored 16-4 by the Pirates, dropping two games, and another two to the Cubs.
For a team that has played an excellent five months of baseball in, arguably, the toughest division in the Major leagues, the idea of playing in the one game wildcard has become a scary reality.
The only question that remains is if this recent string of losses is simply an abnormality in what otherwise has been an unbelievable season?
With pitchers back on normal rest and the return of players like Matt Adams, Cardinals fans can only hope this was just an aberration.
The Cardinals face six vital upcoming away games that can make or break their season, three with the Pirates and another three with the Cubs.