By Kevin Powell
ST.LOUIS --The Cubs are now the class of the NL Central. Cardinals fans don’t want to hear it, but it’s true. The Cubs beat the Cardinals in the NLDS in 2015, they won the World Series last year and this season they’re going to celebrate a division title at their rival’s home ballpark.
“We’re definitely arriving at that same mental level that we’ve had the past two seasons,” manager Joe Maddon said after the Cubs beat the Cardinals 10-2.
This is what the Cubs have become. They’re the ones dishing out victories in the biggest games of the season. They took three of four in Milwaukee over the weekend, and dominated the opener against the hated Cardinals.
“Right now, they’re really acting in a very familiar manner,” Maddon added.
They’re not quite there, but considering how well the Cubs have been playing, a champagne celebration at Busch Stadium feels inevitable this week. And apparently, the Cardinals aren’t happy with the Cubs intentions.
This isn’t me knocking the Cardinals. They’ve won the division three of the last four years. They’ve been to the postseason five of the last six seasons. And, of course, they can always point to those 11 World Series titles. It’s all very impressive.
But I’m talking about right now, in 2017. Everyone, including the Cardinals, is chasing the Cubs. They’re not going to win 103 games like last season. The first half was sloppy and inconsistent, but they have the second best record in baseball since the All-Star Break (45-23), trailing only the Indians (51-18). They’ve also beaten up on the division this year, going 42-28 against Central competition.
For a long time, everyone was chasing the Cardinals. If you wanted to win the division, you had to get past St. Louis. Now, everyone is building their roster and planning for the future knowing they’ve got to fight through Rizzo, Bryant, Russell, Baez and all of the other young stars on the roster.
The Cubs are a long way from matching the Cardinals sustained success, but they’re in prime position to win multiple championships. With the magic number down to just one, the Cubs need a victory or a Milwaukee loss Tuesday night to clinch.
Nacho Man was a thing Monday night. 21-year-old Andrew Gudermurth, a Cardinals fan, was sitting in the first row down the third base line Monday night at Busch Stadium. In the second inning, Addison Russell went crashing into Gudermurth and his girlfriend while chasing down a foul ball. Russell’s foot popped up and knocked nacho’s out of Gudermurth’s hands.
“I’ve signed more nacho trays than I’ve ever seen in my life,” Gudermurth said.
After the incident, Russell brought Gudermurth a fresh tray of nacho’s and took a selfie with him. And Nacho Man was born.
“We came over and said ‘sorry about your nachos' and he shook my hand to apologize,” he said.
Gudermurth signed autographs, fans bought him beers AND he got three foul balls. Quite the night for Nacho Man, who became a social media hit. His selfie with Russell had thousands of retweet’s on twitter.
“It was crazy,” Gudermurth said as he showered with “Nacho Man!” chants from his fellow Cardinals fans.
NEWS and NOTES
--There were a ton Cubs fans at the game Monday night. So many that when Kris Bryant launched a homer, the fireworks operator launched a couple mortars. My guess is he heard the amount of cheering and just assumed it was a Cardinals homer. Well done, Cubs fans.
-- The Cubs have hit 215 homers this season, the second-highest single-season total in franchise history. In 2004 they smacked 235 homers.
--Six players have at least 20 homers this season, a franchise mark. Kirs Bryant, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Javier Baez have all hit 20+.
Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720