The Cardinals exist in two realities lately: when they play the Phillies, and when they play everyone else.
Going into our first series against the Phightin’ Phils, we had lost 6 in a row, including losing a series to a team that had lost 5 of it’s previous 6 (Cincinnati). We proceeded to sweep the Phils, making it look like we had turned things around. Then we lost 5 of our next 7, losing a series to Milwaukee, the current NL Central division leader, and a series to Baltimore, a team currently tied for last in the AL East.
Of all the teams we played in that stretch, starting from that 6 game losing streak until now, Philly has the worst record and isn’t close. Philly is currently 22-48. The next worse team is Cincinnati at 30-41.
That leads to an ominous conclusion: Right now, we can only beat really bad teams.
Now, obviously, that is a simplified conclusion, and this stretch of games, going from the losing streak until now (18 games) is a small sample size compared to a 162 game season.
Still, there were some bad signs during that stretch.
First, Mike Leake looked like he was human after all. Until yesterday’s win against the Phils, Leake had lost three in a row. Leake, along with Carlos Martinez, had been one of the staff’s anchors. If he starts to struggle, then we could be in trouble. Those three losses were against teams with good offenses (Cincinnati, Chicago, and Milwaukee) So I put more weight in those games than I do in games against the Phils.
Second, other starters are struggling as well.
Michael Wacha has a 4.76 ERA, and had a bad June, only getting past the 5th inning in one start. Adam Wainwright, who had looked like he was getting better, has gotten hammered in two of his last three starts, ballooning his ERA to 5.75 on the season. Guess who the good start was against? The Phils.
Third, the bullpen is being overused.
I noticed a lot of starts by Wacha, Wainwright and Lynn where those guys didn’t get out of the 5th inning. That’s going to expose our bullpen, and we don’t have an Andrew Miller or Chris Devinski to lean on, or a pen like the Royals of a couple years ago.
Fourth, the offense continues to struggle.
The offense is having some good games, don’t get me wrong, but given how the majority of the rotation is struggling and the over-exposure of our bullpen, it needs to have more of them. We need to be able to lean on the offense more, or the struggles will likely continue. Carlos Martinez can’t pitch every game.
Lest I be considered Captain Gloom and Doom, I will point out that there some bright spots as well.
First, Tommy Pham has been Phamtastic! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) He’s hit .286 with 9 homers and a .521 slugging percentage. However, if you take a closer look at those homers…6 against the Phils and Braves, two teams not currently known for their pitching, and two at the homer haven that is Coors Field, there is a small reason to be skeptical. Still, I think the average is legit at least, as is the .374 OBP. I’ll gladly take those, even without the power. He has helped give the offense a boost, and been a steady presence in LF, something we sorely needed after Randal Grichuk‘s struggles.
Second, Carlos has been Carlos. Outside a rough stretch from Mid-April to Mid-May, he’s performed well, and been our ace, somebody we can rely on. We sorely need that.
Third, Jedd Gyorko has quietly been having a good season. .297/11 homers/.514 Slugging percentage? More please.
So there are bright spots, but until we return to have success outside of playing the Phils, I’ll remain a skeptic.
As always, thanks for reading.