As the Paints head into the final games of the regular season, some things are clear about the rest of the Prospect League season, particularly as it pertains to the Paints and life in the East Division.
On the other hand, some things aren't quite so clear...
* What we know is that Chillicothe is bound for the playoffs. That much was made certain weeks ago, when the Paints won the first half championship in the East by 2 1/2 games over West Virginia. Chillicothe's 20 wins in 29 first-half games (there was one rainout in Champion City, which was made up Friday and counts as a second-half win for the Paints), assured the team of its place in the postseason, no matter how the rest of the season plays out.
* We also know that the Paints are still playing pretty well. They were (14-8) as of July 26th in the second half, four games behind East-leading Butler and a game behind second-place West Virginia. We also know that the Paints don't gain a lot by winning the second half. They still have the best overall record in the entire Prospect League, and a second-half win does ... honestly, it does next to nothing as far as the schedule goes. What matters most are the head-to-head games against the critical opponents down the stretch.
* And there are a few of them. To a certain degree, the Paints control their own destiny, with one game left against West Virginia and two against Butler. Those wins will have an immediate impact on the standings, but not really on the Paints, at least until the playoffs start. Along with those three games against the teams ahead of them in the standings, Chillicothe has one more against Champion City, two against Richmond, two against Lorain County and one against Terre Haute -- all of which are either below the Paints by a big margin in the East, or in the other division. Nobody wants to go into the playoffs on a cold streak, but there isn't a lot of win-at-all-costs left in the regular season.
* Winning is important, however. That goes back to the idea that you never want to hit the playoffs on a cold streak, and it starts Monday, when the Paints open a two-game home series against Richmond. The Paints have played well at home and six of the final nine games are at VA Memorial Stadium.