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The MLB season always seems to last forever. Not watching games in May and June doesn't seem like such a big deal. There are at least 100 games left to view.

Then, suddenly, the end is in sight. For those whose favorite teams are in the playoff chase, sweating through every inning of every game is a must.

Such is the fate for Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals faithful. They are in a battle with the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central Division title and also with three teams from the NL West in wild-card positioning.

The Cubs have been clinging to the Central lead for months and try to expand on that this weekend against the Cincinnati Reds (3 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago, 1:20 p.m. Sunday on Channel 59).

Meanwhile, the Cardinals are in the midst of a crucial four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers which ultimately could affect a wild-card spot for either team.

Don't turn on Fox Sports Midwest for Cardinals games this weekend. St. Louis and LA are drawing national coverage. Saturday's noon game is on Fox, while Sunday's 7 p.m. contest is broadcast on ESPN (who knows what crazy stuff Alex Rodriguez will say).

The Cardinals will be featured again on Fox two weeks from Saturday in what could amount to a do-or-die series for St. Louis and the Cubs. They finish the season with three games at Wrigley Field.

Of course, the Cubs and Cardinals might not be done with each other after Sept. 30. The Cubs currently have the NL's best record and would serve as host to the winner of the wild-card game in the best-of-five divisional series.

Right now, the wild-card game would pit the Cardinals against the Brewers. So this could be like 2015 all over again when St. Louis and Chicago battled it out and extended their rivalry into October.

The fun is just starting. Buckle up.

College FB: South Florida vs. Illinois (BTN, 2:30 p.m. Saturday): The Illini also were 2-0 last year before getting spanked by the Bulls and losing 10 straight. Lovie Smith should feel right at home back at Soldier Field.

NASCAR: South Point 400 (NBCSN, 2 p.m. Sunday): It's the start of the playoffs with 16 drivers eligible for the big prize. When in Vegas go with the hot hand in Brad Keselowski, who has won two straight races.   

NFL: Seahawks at Bears (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. Monday): The good thing for Chicago is Aaron Rodgers won't be on the other sideline and orchestrating a miracle comeback. The bad thing? Seattle's Russell Wilson is pretty good, too. 

Contact Jim Benson at



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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