Editor’s Note: This piece, by BP Wrigleyville’s Stan Croussett, isn’t the kind of thing you’ll usually find on the site—you’ll see no numbers here. But we think it captures this moment in a way that numbers can’t, and we hope you enjoy.
Look up your favorite Cardinals blogger or columnist and take a deep breath. Now smile. You’re going to notice something there: the tone has changed. For a long time, the Cardinals media has had this sense that they’d always be on top. No challenge seemed too daunting for them. They could always trust their ever-changing, ever-permanent core players of Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright. And hey, I don’t think I’d be exaggerating if I said some people felt it came off as a little smug. So smile. They’re scared. The momentum doesn’t favor St. Louis anymore.
This isn’t a preview of the National League Division Series, but just about any preview you’ll find will carry the same feel. These Cubs are no pushovers. I can’t tell you if I’ve ever felt this way before, because quite frankly I don’t think I have.
Starting tonight for the Chicago Cubs is Jon Lester. That’s significant because Lester has been in these spots before, exemplifying one of the biggest strengths these Cubs have—their balance between veteran experience and youthful exuberance. Not too long ago, Lester faced a stronger Cardinals lineup in the World Series and limited them to one run in 15-plus innings. Jon Lester is no pushover.
And about that lineup. The 2015 Cardinals? They’re all sorts of banged up. Carlos Martinez is out for this series. Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina aren’t at full strength. Who the heck knows what’s happening with Matt Adams and Matt Holliday’s lower bodies? Stephen Piscotty was involved in an ugly collision a few weeks ago, and Randal Grichuk did this last month.
The Cubs lost the season series to the Cardinals 11-8. Cardinals bloggers and columnists will definitely remind you of that over the next few days. But what they won’t do is remind you that it could have easily been the other way around, save for a few “Cardinal Occurrences.” And they certainly won’t remind you about the utter dominance the Cubs had over the Cardinals during the final two series. They could have both been sweeps, but them’s the cards. These Cubs know they can beat their eternal rivals. They’re no pushovers anymore.
I don’t know if I believe in momentum. I do recall feeling an eerie sense of dread in 2008 when the Cubs were against the Dodgers, but I’m pretty sure that was paranoia from previous seasons. I knew those Cubs were a 97-win club, but the momentum seemed to favor the Dodgers. Not this time. These Cubs, I know they’re good. They have the momentum of a speeding freight train. I can see the pressure on you, St. Louis. My advice? Play stupid. But you’re gonna have to be stupider than the Cubs!
Lead photo courtesy Jeff Curry—USA Today Sports.