"Baseball is a game of numbers"
True, it's an old cliche, but in the case of the Cubs winning the NL Central, it's truly a number's game. With an NL-leading 70-47 record (as of 8/10), the Cubs just need to play consistent baseball the rest of the way.
Let's breakdown the remainder of the Cubs '08 schedule:
19 home games (11 in August, 8 in September)
25 road games (9 in August, 16 in September)
The Cubs conclude their crucial 3-game series Sunday against St. Louis. A victory will cap a 6-3 home stand (71-47 overall), which leads to the common consensus:
Win 2 of 3 at home and split on the road the rest of the way.
Our Cubbies pack their bags for a 6 game road-stretch in Atlanta and Florida. The Cubs are projected to face Morton, Campillo, and Jurren in Atlanta (combined 19-11 record) while only Josh Johnson is projected thus far for the series-opener in Florida.
Projected Goal: While the Braves are throwing 3 of their up and coming arms our way, their offense is banged up
Meanwhile, the Marlins are in a tight 3-way race with Philly and the Mets for the NL East. Dan Uggla's still reeling from his nightmare All Star game, but he's due to finally come out of his major league funk. Avoid the sweep here, get 1 of 3 and return home for a favorable home stretch.
Projected Road trip result: 3-3.
Rejoice Cubdom, we head up for a 6 game home stand against Cincinnati and Washington, two of the weaker teams in the NL this season. These 2 series should present an excellent opportunity for the Cubs to garner breathing room in the standings.
Projected Goal: Pretty simple, we should aim for a 3 game sweep in one of these series, and 2 of 3 in the other. Washington's playing their younger players at this point, and Dusty's still reeling from the Griffey trade (joke, folks).
Projected Home result: 5-1.
Just as we got comfortable at home, we head east to Pittsburgh for a 3 way series against the young Pirate ball club. With both Jason Bay and Xavier Nady headed to the Red Sox/Yankee soap opera, the Pirates are showcasing their young arms and bats.
Projected Goal: The main concern here is a possible letdown from a favorable home stand, but Lou will have the boys mentally sharp. Get 2 of 3 here and return for the tough 7 game home stand.
Projected Road trip result: 2-1.
Alright boys and girls, the remainder of our schedule gets rough from here on out. If the Cubs are going to win the NL pennant and reach the World Series, this is where we have to prove we're ready. We conclude August with a 4 game home stand against Chase Utley and the Phillies.
Projected Goal: Many consider the Phillies the favorite for the East, so this could be a NLCS preview. The Cubs had success the last time they faced Cole Hamels, and they're most likely going to see him again in this series. We should have the pitching advantage easily, and as long as we can limit the damage of Utley and Howard, we should be fine. Take the split and make a statement to the National League.
Projected August record: 12-7 (83-54 overall)
It's the 4th quarter, there's 7 seconds left on the buzzer, it's September baseball! The good news is we should be well on our way to the Central crown, but the bad news is we only have 9 games in the friendly confines. If we're going to improve our road woes, September will give us plenty of opportunities to rectify an average road record this season.
We start off September with a 3 game series against the Astros. We've fared well against our friends from Texas. Keep Berkman and Tejeda in check, take 2 of 3 and gear up for the crucial 9 game road trip.
Projected Goal/ Road trip Result: 4-3.
The Cubs wrap up their '08 campaigns with 3 road games against the Astros and Reds, and sprinkle in 3 games at the new Busch against the Cardinals. This will our prelude to the final 6 games on the season, all in which will be on the road.
Projected Goal: Don't expect a 9-0 or 8-1 outcome here. I could see us starting off good in Cincinnati (2-1), but we could very well struggle in St Louis (1-2) and Houston (1-2) We'll need to lick our wounds, remain confident, and prepare for our final home series of the '08 regular season.
Projected Road trip: 4-5
We wrap up our season at Wrigley (for the regular season, that is) with a couple of 3 game series against our friends, the Brewers and Cardinals.
Projected Goal: We'll be glad to be done with the Cardinals (2-1), but our fun will only of just begun with Milwaukee. The Brew Crew will be out for blood following our 4 game-sweep in Milwaukee in July. It'll be imperative that we take 2 of 3, and I like our chances!
Projected final Home stand result: 4-2
And it comes down to this, the final week of the '08 season. Our final 7 games of the season, on the road, against the Mets and Brewers.
Projected Goal: The four game series in New York will be heated, highly contested, and should be a playoff atmosphere. As ideal as it would be to sweep or take 3 of 4, I see the Mets conquering their demons from last year's collapse by winning the East, but they'll have settle for the 2-2 split.
As for the Brewers series, take the first sentence of the paragraph above and multiply it by 200 and that's what we'll get here. I honestly think we'll have the Central clinched at this point, but we'll need to finish the season on a high-note heading into the playoffs. I say 2 of 3.
Projected Road trip record: 4-3
Projected September record: 14-13
Projected 2008 season record: 97-65
These may be biased predictions or overly optimistic, but the Cubs 2008 season has been a magical ride, and until they prove me wrong, I could see us marching into October with not only the best NL record, but the best record in baseball!
Thanks for reading.