The Cardinals have been a somewhat sleepy team this year. They win their share of games, but they haven't played great baseball by any stretch of the imagination. They have only played .531 baseball since April. They have been shut out ten times. They have lost seven of twelve to Houston. They have been dogged all year by the Cincinnati Reds who have been on top of the division for most of the year. Albert Pujols has legitimate MVP competition from Joey Votto. They have three solid starters followed by a lot of hope and prayers.
If you are facing a club like the Cardinals with their history and their manager, is it a good idea to come out with strong statements to the press about the Cardinals if you are Brandon Phillips of the Reds right before the series? No, that's probably not a good idea. It's a better idea not to give your competition too much to chew on in the club house. And so the two top teams in the NL Central met head to head and in the second game, Phillips came up to hit and all hell broke loose. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. Both managers got tossed. And, oh yeah, the Cardinals won easily for the second night in a row. And tomorrow Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals. Uh oh.
The Reds came in to the series up by two games in the division. That lead is now vanished. By the end of the day on Wednesday, they could be in second place. The Cardinals have been the sleeping gorilla in the division and the Reds decided to wake them up. And that, in retrospect, wasn't a good idea.
The Cardinals simply look like the better team. They have firepower on offense. They have two mega-studs in the rotation and an up and comer at number three. Their bullpen has sorted itself out. The Reds will now have to play their best for the rest of the year to keep up with them. The odds don't look great because in this series at least, the Cardinals showed the Reds a thing or two about what it takes to win a division.