An Uneventful Night At Busch

It would be easy to place the blame on Mike Matheny and Jon Jay for missing a walk in the seventh inning. Cards fans could point at the umpire, Dan Bellino as well. In doing so, they would be lowering themselves to bush league tactics. A missed walk didn’t doom the Cards. Their bats went missing against Tampa Bay this week. The Cards got swept and it seems like all the momentum from the weekend series win over the Dodgers is gone.

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The Cards were leading first place by a half game going in Sunday night’s finale, and they missed a golden opportunity to hang a loss on arguably the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. Tuesday night, Adam Wainwright had a bad day at the office and the Cards struck out 13 times and left 14 runners on base. The final score was Rays 7, Cardinals 2. Wednesday night, Lance Lynn pitched capably but the bats didn’t show up and couldn’t muster a single run. The team struck out 15 times and left 7 runners on base.  After local kid Jake Odorizzi served up a homecoming for the ages in striking out 8 Cardinals on Tuesday, Alex Cobb struck out 10 on Wednesday and seemed to be throwing a golf ball towards the plate.

This wasn’t a fluke because the Rays pitchers lead the AL in strikeouts but that didn’t make it any less ugly to watch. The Cards looked flat, half asleep and couldn’t catch up to any fastballs. Odorizzi and Cobb are fine young talents but they aren’t unhittable. The Cards produced two lifeless performances in a row and find themselves 2.5 games out of first place thanks to old friend Kyle Lohse(11-4) shutting down the Reds. How 72 hours can change everything in baseball?

So, I won’t blame one instance in a game and call for Matheny’s head. I tired of jumping up and down on one particular person on this team. It’s old. It’s lazy journalism. This was a team sweep. Everybody’s deserves blame.

Kolten Wong sure has caught fire but he left 4 runners on the base Tuesday and struck out 3 times on Wednesday.

Matt Adams may be hitting .324 but he can still be fooled by a decent offspeed pitch and couldn’t produce a big mash against either of these righties. In what must have been a blown hit and run call, Adams was thrown out stealing last night. Yes, you read that correctly. Bad luck? Bad call? Who cares? It happened.

Matt Holliday may have gotten his slugging percentage above .400 finally but he went 0-4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday. He had Matt Carpenter on third base with one out and grounded out to third base. He isn’t paid the big bucks to do that. Love the solo home run on Tuesday. Needed a big hit there to tie the game. Fail.

Oscar Taveras a hit in three at bats and was mostly ineffective. The rookie needs to start more than twice a week to have an impact. Sure, we could rely on the folk song that is Allen Craig‘s last two years or the Cards could do what is best to win today and play Oscar. He has a better batting average in July than Craig so stop blocking the kid when there is no better alternative.

Sam Freeman had a rough 9th inning but somebody please tell me why Randy Choate is on the team. He has a contract but here is a guy who can’t get right handed batters out. With the return of Kevin Siegrist, are Choate’s days numbered? I sure hope so.

There are people who think Matt Carpenter is having a bad season and I just don’t see it. He leads the team in hits, walks, on base percentage and ranks as the hitter many pitchers hate to face because Carp works counts like no other. He got a pair of hits(including a home run) on Tuesday and had the only extra base hit on Wednesday. His defense at third base has tightened up. He isn’t doing what he did last year but neither is the rest of this lineup save Adams. Carpenter is doing fine.

Everybody wants to throw the blame on Matheny. He is getting out managed and he is doing this so wrong. I take my shots at the guy here often and try to do it when it’s deserved but I won’t throw this loss on him. The bats have sparked lately but in these two games they were simply shut down. I can tip my cap to the Rays pitching staff or point my finger at the lineup but excuse me if I don’t take an easy shot at Matheny.

He is a young manager learning on the fly. He was handed a great team in 2012 and has done a solid job his first two seasons but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Managing is a tough racket. This year, everything is going wrong.

Let’s run down the list so perspective is not lost.

Jaime Garcia is gone.

Joe Kelly missed over 2 months.

Michael Wacha will miss over 2 months.

Yadi Molina will miss at least 2 months.

Allen Craig is stuck in a horrible slump and is supposedly healthy.

Matt Holliday is having an off year at the plate.

Tony Cruz is okay but 5-31 in his early exposure to everyday duty at the plate. People stealing on him.

Backup George Kottaras can’t block a ball for his life and never gets to hit.

Shelby Miller is going through sophomore blues and is starting at Wrigley this weekend.

Carlos Martinez is full of promise but can’t throw 5 innings with consistency.

Trevor Rosenthal‘s arm will be sewn back on for the playoffs, if the team makes it.

The Pirates and Brewers are staying close.

Do you get the drift? This season has been a tough ride and I doubt Matheny thinks too highly of himself right now. Every time he speaks directly about Matheny, John Mozeliak praises his leadership skills yet leaves the door open on his game management tactics. That’s to be expected. This is his third season. He makes boneheaded calls. He doesn’t adjust. Mike Matheny deserves some of the blame but  not all of it.

That’s a tired practice.

This sweep is on the bats. They struck out 28 times in two games and recorded 2 runs on 12 hits in front of two sell out home crowds.

Right when you think the team is on the verge of something special, they turn around. I think of myself as one of many people at the end of the street telling the Cards to keep driving straight and come towards me. I scream at them to keep coming only to see them drift and roll around the road until they are turned facing the other direction.

How many false starts will this team go through? Yes, they have 53 wins. Yes, they are only 2.5 games out of first place and set up for the wildcard. Yes, it isn’t that bad.

The truth remains. The Cards are still underachieving on July 23rd. Injuries or not, that’s simply not good enough. Instead of leading the division, the Cards are tied for second place with the Pirates.  Wrigley Field awaits. It’s always dangerous when the Cards play a Cubs team with nothing to lose in their home yard.

The Cards will throw Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller and Adam Wainwright at the Cubs to regain that momentum and stay afloat before the trade deadline looms.

That is, after another off day. Thank you schedule makers. After four days last week, the Cards get 2 days this week and another on Monday. Enough is enough.

These 2014 Cardinals need all the game action they can get. Friday brings another box score and result.

Until then,

Stay up, Cardinal Nation. There are 61 games left.

For more instant doses, follow me on Twitter at @buffa82

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