September stumbles

The Cardinals are still in good shape.

I know, I know ... that seems like a strange assertion, considering that they've lost seven straight games and allowed their lead in the National League Central to shrink to 1½ games. A couple of happier notes, though: (1) they probably can't lose forever, and (2) the schedule favors the Cardinals, as the rest of their games are in St. Louis and the rest of the Astros' games are in Pittsburgh and Atlanta.

But 1½ games? That lead could be gone before the weekend. And if the Cardinals somehow manage to squander a lead that was seven games as recently as Sept. 18, they'll be remembered for one of the greatest September fades ever.