Surely we all remember the disappointment throughout the 2006 regular season. As fans, we dealt with a very streaky team that could not ride hot streaks for very long. Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen were clearly on the decline as far as offensive performance. Co-ace Mark Mulder was plagued with injury, and had a 7.14 ERA when he did get a chance to pitch. Starting pitcher Jason Marquis also had a disappointing ERA of 6.02. The bullpen and our bats experienced cold streaks as well. Despite all of that... well the rest is history. We all know how that ended.
I am not saying that our team should plan on slumping during the season, and then save the good stuff for the playoffs. But the point is- if a team gets hot at the right time, anything can happen. You may wonder what we have seen out of this 2010 team that gives us any reason to believe that they will suddenly get hot in the post-season (if we get that far). The answer is Brandon Phillips, and the way the team played against the Reds.
Sure, losing two out of three to the Cubbies is a let down. But given the way the Cubs have played lately, it may be logical to believe that the Cards did not bring their 'A' game (Lohse making his first start since the injury didn't help either). As fans we expect to see their 'A' game every day, so losing a series like this is particularly upsetting. But this team showed us in Cincinnati that they can do some damage when they are fired up.
Unfortunately, that mentality (playing well only when 'fired up') will not win 100 games in the regular season. But, it very well could lead to a hot run in the playoffs. Especially considering that the Reds could likely be a playoff opponent. It is all about getting hot at the right time, that is how they won it all in 2006. It might not be the prettiest strategy, but the regular season means nothing once that first playoff game starts.
Last season, we saw what happens when a team gets too far ahead in their division. The competition becomes less intense, and it is hard to regain that intensity when the playoffs arrive. Do you remember the end of last season? They clinched the division against Colorado (Sept.26th), and then had a 1-9 record for the remainder of the season. They were unable to re-ignite that fire once the playoffs started. So what I am trying to say is: it might be beneficial (as far as playoff performance goes) to be under pressure the entire season, so that they can be "in the zone" already, come playoff time.