MT. VERNON —
The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be doing it again.
They've managed to stay within striking distance of the surprising Milwaukee Brewers and as baseball's All-Star break nears, the Cardinals are creeping closer to the top.
The Brewers have been one of baseball's bigger surprise stories this season. Milwaukee has been a consistent front runner in the first half, seizing commanding control of the National League Central.
Now the lead seems to be ebbing away.
The National League Central is a division that has emerged as one of the best in baseball over the last few seasons. The division has been buoyed by the resurgence of the Reds and Pirates. They are two teams that can't be completely counted out.
Currently, every team in the division has a winning record except for the Cubs. Chicago just recently traded a pair of its top pitchers. Since then the Cubs lost six straight games, digging a deeper hole in the last-place cellar.
The Cardinals are heading in the opposite direction, trending upward especially over the last week or so. The Cardinals trailed the Brewers by a mere two games going into Thursday's action.
There will be add adversity to the Cardinals' journey this season. Thursday brought the news of a thumb injury to starting catcher and key cog Yadier Molina. The Cardinals cornerstone, according to an Associated Press story, will have surgery for the injury. He will be out up to three months.
One of the most interesting story lines in baseball for the second half will be whether or not the Brewers can sustain their start and stave off the Cards' surge. Milwaukee entered Thursday with four straight loses and had dropped eight of of their last nine. Baseball is a marathon of a season but that's a bad stretch for any team, especially one that surely now views itself as a playoff contender.