Cincinnati Reds vs. Chicago Cubs Preview: No Time To Relax

Michael HammonsCorrespondent IAugust 26, 2010

CHICAGO - JULY 03: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds prepares to bat against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on July 3, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Reds 3-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

I have two words for a series like this: "Trap series."

Be careful. Be very, very careful. Wear a hazmat suit and safety goggles in a situation like this one.

Why do I say this?

Look at the rest of the Reds' division as an example. This week alone, the Pirates captured a series from the Cardinals, and the Astros are on the verge of sweeping a four game series from the Phillies.

Even a few short weeks ago, the Cubs went into St. Louis and came away as the winners of two out of three.

There is no secret as to why this happens. Teams struggle, and the axe starts to fall. It could be the manager, or it could be players getting dealt away. Everyone becomes accountable, and jobs are on the line for next season; some guys still have incentives in their contracts to reach.

The Cubs are a prime example of this.

Lou Piniella is gone. Derrek Lee has been dealt. The team is trying to figure out which direction to go.

At this point, it's just guys out there playing baseball, free of pressure from division races, but eager to maintain their own individual status and keep making those major league dollars.

The 2009 Reds were a team with nothing to play for during the last six weeks of the season, but they strapped it up and built a lot of positive momentum that has carried over this season. What you do in the final stanza of a lost season isn't meaningless by any stretch of the imagination.

A lot of the remaining schedule is against sub .500 teams. Being in a close division race, how the Reds fend off the spoiler teams will play a large role how things shape up in the end.

While I'm on this theme, lets hope the Nationals are out there "just playing baseball" against the Cardinals this weekend.