Met you in St. Louis

So, uh…what did I miss this past week?

When I left San Francisco, the Reds were up 3 1/2 games and as I check into my hotel in St. Louis, it’s eight games.

Thumbnail image for DSC01661.JPGI never thought the race would widen that much and that’s not a knock on the Reds. It’s an utter surprise that the Cardinals have seemingly headed over Niagara Falls in a barrel (a place I happened to visit one day during my vacation incidentally).

Since that fateful sweep of the Reds, St. Louis has gone 5-13. The Reds responded by going 14-4.

Some of the luster has left this upcoming series since first place isn’t on the line, but the series is still a huge one.

If the Reds are swept again, they still have a five-game lead. Still, they obviously don’t want that. No. 1, it gives the Cardinals another gasp of air and they are a team that knows what to do with second chances.

If the Reds can sweep the Cardinals — difficult considering Garcia, Wainwright and Carpenter are going this weekend — the lead becomes 11 games. That would almost certainly be a knockout punch with 26 games remaining after the series.

Claiming one win for the Reds still means a seven-game lead. It just makes life that much harder for St. Louis.

*To prime you for the series and its two biggest stars — Joey Votto and Albert Pujols — check out this story from my colleague, Matthew Leach.

*Aroldis Chapman has certainly exceeded expectations, if that were possible. I caught the final two outs of his debut while away and saw the highlights of appearance No. 2. It’s not just the velocity that is amazing, but he’s throwing strikes too. This is quite a weapon to add for the final month of a season and postseason push.  

*Don’t be shocked if any of the bad blood that came out of the last series still exists. The Cardinals won’t be able to get direct revenge on Johnny Cueto for his kicking of their players during the melee of last month. But they’re still probably fuming that Jason LaRue was lost for the season with a concussion. It’s unclear if Brandon Phillips will play any of these games. But if he does, I wouldn’t tap Yadier Molina’s shinguard with his bat again.

Lineups and more from the ballpark later…

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http://twitter.com/m_sheldon

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