You know what the St. Louis Cardinals — one of three teams that are neck-and-neck for two N.L. wild-card spots — need in the worst way?
To be greeted by a satiated, unmotivated, self-satisfied Cubs team Friday at Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals need desperately to win this three-game series and gain any possible edge on the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets.
The Cubs? Maybe they need a group nap, or a round of mani-pedis and hot-stone massages.
“I think the intensity will definitely be there,” Kris Bryant said.
The time will come for the Cubs to focus less on day-to-day success and more on setting things up just right for the postseason. According to manager Joe Maddon, that time will be on the regular-season-ending seven-game road trip that begins after the series against the Cardinals.
Emphasis on “after.”
That means regulars on the field and business as usual in the bullpen this weekend. And it means doing right by the Giants, Mets and baseball on the whole.
“With respect for everybody, you’ve got to play these next three games right,” Maddon said. “Not that I don’t trust our other guys, but, industry-wise, you just want to be able to do that.
“I’ve been on both sides of it. When you’re on that other side, you definitely want to make sure that the teams that are in contention are playing against what you perceive to be the other team’s best team. So, yeah, we’ll play it straight-up.”
Up: Dexter Fowler has reached base in eight of his last 14 plate appearances. Jason Heyward has nine hits — and a .520 on-base percentage — in his last six games. Chris Coghlan is 6-for-15 (.400) on the current homestand, and Miguel Montero is batting .344 in September. Heating up at the right time? Oh, yes.
Down: John Lackey was rock-solid in Wednesday’s outing, throwing seven innings of five-hit, two run ball to help complete a series sweep of the Reds. The performance lowered Lackey’s ERA at home this season to 2.62 — far better than his road mark of 4.54. Yet Lackey will be making his first postseason start on the road. Just something to think about.
Up: The Cubs have won 55 games at home this season, matching their 2015 total. Two more raisings of the “W” flag against the Cardinals will mean the Cubs have set a franchise record for victories at Wrigley Field. The 1933 and 1935 teams each won 56 at home.
1 THROUGH 9
1. Cubs: Eight games better than Washington with 10 to play? Home-field advantage is in the bag.
2. Red Sox: What they’ve done to the Yankees and Orioles should be criminal. This team is red-hot and ridiculously dangerous.
3. Rangers: Still lights-out in one-run games. The second-best-record-in-baseball deal is nothing to sneeze at, either.
4. Dodgers: Does anyone still doubt this is the most dangerous potential N.L. opponent for the Cubs to face?
5. Nationals: Just how serious is Daniel Murphy’s injury? What a blow it would be if he weren’t 100 percent for the playoffs.
6. Indians: They’ve bounced back nicely since dropping three of four games at the Cell.
7. Blue Jays: They’re 7-12 in September. That’s no way to close the deal.
8. Astros: Just when it seemed they might be done, a 5-1 road trip kept hope very much alive.
9. Cardinals: Until they’re buried, some part of every Cubs fan will remain worried.
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