It’s that time again: Will Cubs’ cruelty to Cardinals continue on final weekend?

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The Chicago Cubs pose for a team picture on the mound after clinching the NL Central with a 5-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017, at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. | Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via Associated Press

Don’t know about you, but some of us are old enough to remember a time — a long time, actually — when it tended to feel like the Cardinals simply had an edge over the Cubs.

In a closely contested game, the Cardinals were more likely to steal the base, lay down the bunt, turn the double play, execute the hit-and-run — make the winning play because, dang it, that was just what they did.

And just what the Cubs didn’t do.

That the Cardinals boast 11 World Series titles — to the Cubs’ three — only underscores this.

But we should really get on to St. Louis fans’ misery, shouldn’t we?

With the Cardinals in town for a three-game weekend series to end the regular season, it’s quite something to behold just how drastically the hierarchy has changed in the I-55 rivalry (which used to commonly be called the Route 66 rivalry, but that’s even more antiquated than the Cards’ superiority over the Cubs).

With an 8-4 victory Friday at Wrigley Field, the Cubs immediately took advantage of the latest chance to kick the Cards while they were (relatively speaking) down. To kick sand in their faces, rub salt into their wounds, throw headlocks around them and give them noogies.

In other words: same old, same old.

“I like our matchups,” staff ace Jon Lester said after Kyle Hendricks went eight rock-solid innings in the opener. “I like where we’re at. If it was [an opponent] we hadn’t seen a lot, maybe I’d be a little more nervous about it. But I like where we’re at.”

And what’s not to like? After their third win in a row since a scary opening two games of this homestand against the Pirates, the Cubs have a magic number so small — two — it must feel like they can reach out and take it in their hands, embrace it, smell it, kiss it.

The Cardinals? They have one foot in the dumpster of discarded contenders, which merely sets them up perfectly for, again, same old, same old.

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In 2015, the Cubs poured beer on the Cardinals’ 100-win fire by winning the NLDS three games to one. Kyle Schwarber put a ball atop the Budweiser sign in right. The visitors put their tails between their legs and went home.

In 2016, the muscle-bound Cubs — fortified (how much so is debatable) by the additions of ex-Cardinals Jason Heyward and John Lackey — buried the 98-pound Cardinals in the sand, taking the NL Central title from their chief rivals by a still-hard-to-believe 17½ games. That remains the biggest winning margin in the division since the league expanded to a three-division format in 1994.

And consider St. Louis’ horror in the throes of the local nine’s 2017 death. The humanity! In Game 156 — the opener of a four-game series at Busch Stadium — the Cubs won 10-2 and eliminated the Cardinals from the division race. In Game 158, the Cubs won 5-1 and thoroughly trashed the visitors’ clubhouse. In Game 159, the Cubs won 2-1 and eliminated the Cardinals from wild-card contention. Cruel and inhumane, when you really think about it.

But now here we are — time to crank things up a couple of notches?

“It should be pretty hot around here,” manager Joe Maddon said heading into the weekend.

Uncomfortably so for at least one of these teams.

This weekend, the Cubs can (a) end the Cardinals’ 2018 postseason dreams and (b) celebrate the clinching of a division title right in their faces. And if the Cubs play their cards right — yeah, yeah, pun intended — they can make those things happen in the very same moment. Would Sunday, Game 162, be mean enough?

Then again . . . well, we must face the possibility that the Cards will turn the tables on the Cubs in a big, gnarly, hierarchy-shifting way. What if the Cubs lose Saturday and Sunday? Not only could it bump them into a wild-card scenario, but it could bring about a wild-card game against — yikes! — the Cards.

Just imagine what it would look like if the Cubs’ rivals dog-piled on the mound at Wrigley on Tuesday.

No? Can’t picture it? That’s OK, for let’s just be honest here: That almost certainly isn’t going to happen.

Not this time. Not these teams. This old rivalry has changed in too big of a way.

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