Even though there will still be 47 games after this 3-game series with the top two teams in the Central, you can't convince anyone that these aren't the biggest three games of the year for the Reds and Cardinals. If you look at what the Cards did by rearranging their rotation to allow Carpenter, Garcia, and Wainwright to face the Reds in Cincy this week, you'll know just how important these games are to the second place Redbirds.
Yes, I said "second place" when referring to the Cardinals. I mean after all isn't that where they currently reside? And two games back no less. Who would have thought that in March besides some mad scientist? Not this guy that's for sure.
So, the biggest series of the season (until the Labor Day series in St. Louis) begins tonight. Chris Carpenter vs. Mike Leake. On paper, I have to say I don't like the Reds' chances. Carpenter is 3-0 against the Reds this season and 10-3 lifetime with a microscopic 1.96 ERA. Combine that with the fact that of late Mike Leake has not been the Mike Leake we all fell in love with to start the season.
But, stranger things have happened. The Reds have managed to beat Roy Oswalt twice this season so I guess they can beat Carpenter right?
After Carpenter, the Cards throw Jaime Garcia, who like Mike Leake has started to see a bit of trouble on the road to the Rookie of the Year award (which was already given to Jason Heyward before the season even started).
Then the hammer...Adam Wainwright who is coming off a complete game two-hit shutout of the Marlins. BUT, he is just 5-6 on the road this season so he can be beaten.
Without a doubt this is going to be the toughest three day stretch the Reds have faced all year in terms of opposing pitching. Let's hope the 11-run outburst Sunday in Chicago, combined with fresh Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen and three hits from Jay Bruce will get him going and help the Reds' potent offense.
Either way, when you think about it while this series is very important, there will still be a ton of baseball ahead of both teams no matter how it plays out. Even if the Reds should sweep the Cards, I'm pretty sure with some daunting road trips (hello, West Coast) the Reds won't feel safe until October 3 rolls around.
Another way to look at it is this: last night the Bengals began their preseason schedule. Usually by now our focus is on them because the Reds are long out of the race. Not this year. Last night's game was an afterthought for most Reds fans with the Cardinals series weighing heavily on their minds. I know that was the case for me. Can't wait for 7:10. Let's get after it!