NL Central Heat Check: 8.14

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You hear that? That loud hammer and clank in the distance? A wedge is being driven into the Major League Baseball standings, between the playoff contenders and the non-contenders. It’s not easy work—manual labor out in the August sun—but it’s necessary.

The teams with division races on the line need to gird themselves for September, when nerves are frayed on a nightly basis. The rest simply need to let go. I can’t begin to tell you how unbearably sad it is to watch Mariners fans convince themselves that they’re still in the A.L. Wild Card race despite being seven games under .500.

Have some dignity. Trust the wedge.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (73-41) Heat check: Asphalt melting between a cloudless summer sky. Don’t try to escape those noxious fumes hitting your nostrils. Take a deep breath and welcome them in. Sure, the soles of your work boots are melting, and your undershirt is already sweated through. But complaining isn’t going to change anything. Stiff upper lip, son. Accept the inevitably that is the St. Louis Cardinals and be done with it. I don’t like it any more than you do.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (66-46) Heat check: Dumping half that bottle of cool drinking water on your head. Sure, that felt good for a split-second, a shivering reminder that not everything on Earth is currently 102 degrees and rising. But now your shirt is just damp, and a few minutes later, you’re just soggy and lukewarm. You would have been better off in the long run just drinking that instead. No, I don’t trust that rotation to keep the race interesting for another month. Yes, I will dump that water of optimism on my head to distract myself for a second.

3. Chicago Cubs (65-48) Heat check: The North Side in mid-August. I’ve only ever been there twice, but I’m fairly confident in stating that the Windy City fluctuates between frozen tundra and surface of the sun, with no in-between. And this time of year, boy, you better have air-conditioning. The Cubs were supposed to ease into success, making incremental improvements year by year before genuinely contending. Alas, Kris Bryant and the boys are going for it right now.

4. Cincinnati Reds (51-62) Heat check: Those giant, alcoholic vacation slushies they serve on particularly overrun stretches of coastline. This is a bad idea for multiple reasons. For one, it’s 10 a.m., you degenerate. You are not fun to be around when you’ve been day-drinking. For another, after 15 minutes in the sun, that drink is going to be sticky-sweat room temperature poison you’re going to have to force down your throat. This Reds season has been similarly tough on the stomach.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (48-68) Heat check: The middle of summer in Wisconsin. Trick question: It’s always winter in Milwaukee.

Matt Pentz is a Nuxhall Way contributor and a reporter for The Seattle Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattpentz.

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