The Cardinals are as efficient as a Swiss watch. They lost their ace in April but never missed a beat. Adam Wainwright had helped the Cards get off to a 12-4 start, and they have kept ticking on a pace to win 100-plus games as well as stay in range to chase the franchise record of 106 wins.
The Cardinals needed to set such a high standard. The Pirates have been almost as strong as they attempt to go to the postseason for a third consecutive year, this time as division champ. They were 18-22 on May 20 before reeling off a 21-5 stretch to drop the surprising Cubs into third place. No team has been more interesting than the one managed by Joe Maddon, which is contending for a Wild Card spot with four rookies, including All-Star Kris Bryant, in the lineup.
Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.