Chicago’s most feared playoff opponent is also its best known

Website design By BotEap.comInstead of enjoying the incredible season the Cubs have enjoyed in 2016, the devoted Chicago fan in my family has spent the last two months looking at the scores and standings. The last time he checked the sports page, he must have seen that his Cubbies had a fourteen-game lead, as well as the best record in the National League.

Website design By BotEap.comHe swears he’s justified in his concern, which revolves around the club being far behind in the NL’s central position but still in the wild-card race. That team, of course, is St. Louis, which would qualify for the wild-card game at this point.

Website design By BotEap.comThe Cubs have always been a heated rival to the Cardinals, who in the last hundred years have claimed twelve pennants against none from Chicago. Everything indicates that in 2016 the one-sidedness in the Midwest rivalry is about to end.

Website design By BotEap.comIn fact, it may have ended last year, when Chicago eliminated heavy favorite St. Louis from the playoffs. Since that success, the Cubs have managed to push the Cardinals away in the NL Central.

Website design By BotEap.comDespite such dominance, Cubs fans like my brother still check the scores expecting to see that St. Louis has lost. They don’t want the Cardinals to be in the wild-card game, as that would give their longtime rival a chance to avenge last year’s NLDivision Series humiliation.

Website design By BotEap.comThat one-on-one matchup, if played today, would send the Cardinals to San Francisco. The winner of that game would then fly to Wrigley to play the Cubs in a best-of-five NLDS.

Website design By BotEap.comI’ve pointed out to him that the other wild-card contenders, the Mets and Giants, are perhaps even more dangerous for the Cubs. It was New York last year that swept Chicago in the championship series, and it is San Francisco that has won the last three World Series in even-numbered years.

Website design By BotEap.comBoth the Mets and Giants have pitching staffs that would be difficult for the Cubs, who have relied heavily on the offense of MVP candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Chicago’s team batting average against those two teams is lower than against every other team except the Dodgers and Nationals, two of the teams the Cubs would play if they get past the wild-card winner.

Website design By BotEap.comOn the other hand, the team’s batting average against the Cardinals is .252, just one notch below the team’s overall average of .258. They seem to have beaten St. Louis just as well as most other clubs in 2016, so you’d think the Cubs would be happy to face the Cardinals over the Mets or Giants.

Website design By BotEap.comSuch stats don’t count for much when it comes to rivalry, as my brother has pointed out. He and other Chicago fans are simply watching the games head-to-head this season, and therein lies the justification for their fears. The Cubs have won records against every team in their division except one: the Cardinals.

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