Here are five things to know about the Cardinals sweeping the first-place Cubs

The St. Louis Cardinals went into Wrigley Field and swept the Cubs in three games, culminating with Wednesday afternoon's 7-2 drubbing of the first-place Cubs. The previous two games were one-run Cardinals victories, with the Cubs leaving the runners on base in the bottom of the ninth in each.

This one was 7-0 before a late Willson Contreras homer made it 7-2, but the Cubs never threatened after the Cardinals took the lead in the fifth. An Aledmys Diaz two-run homer effectively put the game away, giving the Cardinals their aforementioned 7-0 lead.

If the Rangers win Wednesday night, they'll tie the Cubs for the most wins in the majors (47), a feat the Cubs have held pretty much from the get-go in 2016 (remember, they started 8-1 and then were 25-6). The Rangers still have 26 losses to the Cubs' 23, but it's worth a look.

Here are five more things to know about the sweep.

1. This was great timing for the Cardinals

Diaz's home run pushed the Cardinals to a series sweep in Wrigley. USATSI

The Cardinals brought a five-game losing streak into Wrigley and were sitting 35-33 on the season. They were 12 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central, but more importantly, they were also 2 1/2 games out of the second NL wild card spot, despite the Pirates being in the midst of a possibly season-ending meltdown and the Mets struggling as well.

Staring at the Cubs in a three-game series meant the Cardinals faced a crossroads. Losing the series meant any Hail Mary hopes of taking the Central would be over and they'd have dug a deeper hole in playoff contention.

Instead, the Cardinals come away with a confidence-inspiring series sweep and sit just a half-game out of a wild card spot. Let's stop there, though.

2. The Cubs still have control of the NL Central

Willson Contreras hit a late homer in Wednesday's loss. USATSI

By no means is a 9 1/2-game lead on June 22 insurmountable, but it's a hell of an uphill climb. Most projection systems still have the Cubs with a 99 percent chance of winning the division. Our SportsLine model had it at precisely 99 percent entering Wednesday. So maybe it's in the 98th percentile by now.

The odds are still overwhelmingly in favor of the Cubs taking the Central, but there are two wild card spots. The Cardinals have won the World Series recently as a wild card (2011) anyway, so this sweep was still a huge deal for them.

3. The Cardinals are road warriors

The Cardinals have played extremely well away from Busch Stadium. USATSI

At 23-12, the Cardinals now boast the best road record in all of baseball. Thanks to these three straight wins, they pushed past -- guess who? -- the Cubs, who are 22-12 on the road. A Giants win Wednesday night in Pittsburgh would have them right in the mix at 24-14 as well. The best AL road record, for those curious, belongs to the Rangers at 21-15.

On the flip side, the Cardinals are just 15-21 at Busch Stadium. Only two NL teams have fewer wins at their home park (Braves, Diamondbacks). If the Cardinals play better at home the rest of the way while maintaining their road dominance, the NL Central could turn into a race.

4. This hasn't happened to the Cubs all season

The Cubs just suffered their first sweep of the year. USATSI

This is the first time the Cubs have been swept this season. It's also the first time they have lost three straight games at home, where they were previously 25-8 (25-11 still isn't too shabby, obviously).

In fact, the last time the Cubs were swept at home was last Aug. 18-19 by the Tigers. The last time they were swept at home in three games came last July 24-26 against the lowly Phillies. They would go 46-19 the rest of the way after that series.

This is the second time this season the Cubs have lost three games in a row. Last time it happened, they ripped off wins in 10 of their next 11 games.

So for any Cubs fans out there worrying, maybe give it another day or two.

5. This hasn't happened in Wrigley in a long time

Well done, Cardinals. USATSI

Despite a pretty big difference in fielding consistently good teams, the Cardinals actually haven't swept the Cubs in Wrigley Field since May 17-19, 1988.

What does this have to do with 2016? Absolutely nothing, but it's a fact some will consider fun nonetheless.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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