By: Brenna Carberry
As the Cubs' slump continues, it’s difficult to look past the ongoing issues on both sides of the ball.
After having seven players selected for next week's All-Star Game, the Cubs lost to the last-place Reds Wednesday for the second time in three days. The North Siders have now lost four of their last five series, and have dropped below the San Francisco Giants for the majors' best record.
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But it's not a time to panic. Despite being stuck in their worst funk this season, the Cubs (52-32) remain atop the NL Central and their struggles are relatively minor issues compared to what their rivals are dealing with these days.
The St. Louis Cardinals lost arguably their best player Wednesday night when Matt Carpenter suffered a right oblique strain in the bottom of the third inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Carpenter was placed on the 15-day DL on Thursday, but it is hard to know exactly when he'll return to the lineup as oblique injuries generally cost players at least a month.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said he had a "high level of concern" about Carpenter's injury after the game.
A similar oblique injury cost Carpenter a month on the DL four seasons ago, and this one could be more serious.
The Cardinals do have the personnel to cover for Carpenter, but replacing him is near impossible as he is the best player the Cardinals have by pretty much any objective measure - batting .298/.420/.568 with 14 home runs, 53 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 78 games this season. They'll look to Kolten Wong and Jedd Gyorko to fill in for Carpenter at second base, but with first baseman Brandon Moss on the 15-day DL with a left ankle sprain, and Brayan Pena (knee) and Jhonny Peralta (thumb) battling injuries, cover options are running low.
The future is murky for Matt Carpenter and the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in a dog fight in the National League Wild Card race. After losing to the Pittsburgh Pirates Wednesday night, the Cardinals dropped a half-game below the Pirates in the NL Central standings, putting them 9 games behind the division-leading Cubs. The big question now is can the Cardinals climb back from this deficit, or is it all downhill from here?
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It's not just the Cardinals either. The New York Mets are battling significant injuries as well with right-hander Matt Harvey on the DL with right shoulder discomfort, and Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard are pitching through bone spurs in their pitching elbows. And with the Cubs' newfound rivalry with the Mets, these lingering injuries could impact both teams' playoff runs come October.
It's hard to know how things will shake out in the National League down the road, but one thing we know for sure right now is that as the Cubs struggle, so do their rivals.