If frustration levels could be set on the same scale as our defense readiness, St. Louis Cardinals fans would be at DEFCON 2, I think. After a nice run through the Red Sox, the Redbirds got pummeled in Baltimore and now have dropped two in a row to a Miami team that might be OK but still is under .500. You don’t lose two in a row to a team like that if you are a championship team.
Which begs the question: Is this really a championship team? We’ve had that mindset all year long, for good reason. When you look at the talent this team has and what it should be able to do, on paper this looks like a squad that should easily contend to defend their NL crown if not take the next step. That’s what we’ve wanted to see all year long and, to some degree, that’s why this team is so frustrating.
As my father often used to tell me, they don’t play the games on paper. (To be fair, he predates the whole fantasy baseball thing, when we did play our games on paper, though even that’s digital these days.) While you look at a team with this lineup and this rotation and this bullpen and think that we should be looking at title #12, the actual results are such that it may be time to temper those thoughts. Every day that we watch them lose another game, especially to teams that they should beat, makes it harder and harder to picture this club in October.
I know, I know, 2011. 2012, to a degree. The Cards aren’t that far out of it right now and there’s a lot of baseball to be played. I’m not saying that they can’t or won’t win the division or go deep into October. It’s obvious that they CAN, since if they couldn’t we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’m not suggesting that we stop watching the games or stop being a fan or anything like that. I think it just may be time to realize that this isn’t the team we thought we were getting in January or February. I don’t know the reasons, I don’t know necessarily how you fix it, but right now it’s very difficult to imagine that they can hunt down Milwaukee, much less go deep into the playoffs. Again, don’t misunderstand–I know they can and I hope they can, but I may have to temper it to not expect they can. It may be the only way to deal with the frustration.
I guess we should take a look at last night’s game. After writing about how Matt Adams needed a day off yesterday, Mike Matheny gave him a day off. (I will now write about how someone needs to give me five million dollars.) While most everyone was confused and confuzzled to see Mark Ellis take first in his stead, there’s no obvious backup first baseman on the roster. All Ellis did was get two of the team’s four hits and get the Hero status. Granted, it didn’t take much to get that status in last night’s stinker of a game, but it’s still interesting to see both Ellis and Daniel Descalso have such good games with some playing time recently. It’s not something I necessarily want to see as a regular practice, but as much grief as those guys have gotten from the fans, it’s kinda nice to see them be productive. Not sure if it’s telling that most of those big games have come in Cardinal losses or not, though.
So many choices for Goat, but we’ll use our “leadoff breaks ties” rule and give it to Matt Carpenter, who put up an 0-4 just like many of the rest of the hitters, but that means more coming out of the leadoff spot. Again, though, you could flip a coin and pick this one. Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta also went 0-4 and a few others probably would have if they’d gotten another at-bat.
Adam Wainwright probably deserved better last night. He only allowed three runs, including a foul-pole-clanging home run from Donovan Solano that easily could–probably should–have gone foul. Couple that with the fact Casey McGehee apparently learned at the feet of Aramis Ramirez (he has a 1.188 OPS against the Cardinals this year) and that was enough for the Marlins when the Cardinal bats were as quiet as, well, we’ve come to expect. While they put up another late-inning rally in this one, it came to naught like most of the rallies have lately.
The game ended with Adams pinch-hitting for Oscar Taveras and striking out. While it could be a bit frustrating to see a lefty pinch-hitting for a lefty, given Taveras’s struggles lately, with the tying runs on you likely had to make a move like that. (Then again, knowing that they would go to a lefty reliever, should maybe Peter Bourjos have hit? Not that he could have tied the game on one swing like Adams theoretically could, but a base hit could have gotten at least one in. Given that Adams hasn’t hit a home run in a long while, expecting him to pinch-hit one off a lefty might have been a bridge too far.) Bernie Miklasz writes about Taveras and what he should work on (and what may happen soon). He’s right about one thing, thinking that the hitting coaches will help might be a pipe dream. After all, this is an offense that has trouble hitting water when they fall out of a boat and it has been all year long. You’d think that if the coaches could make a difference, they would have by now.
St. Louis tries to avoid the sweep and falling any farther back in the division this evening, sending out Justin Masterson to hopefully do much better than he’s done the first two times. Masterson says he’s worked on his mechanics and he’s ready to go, but we’ll have to see if there’s something behind that strong talk.
Of course, while the Marlins hitters haven’t seen him much, they haven’t really been fooled when they have. We’ll see if him tinkering with things will make a difference tonight. We can only hope.
The Cards have to hit against Nathan Eovaldi, who has an ERA a shade under 4.00 for the season. Eovaldi is coming off back-to-back strong starts against the Reds, including his last start, which was eight scoreless innings. He’s been beat around at times this year–in his last 10 games he’s allowed five runs or more five times–but that dominance against another NL Central team doesn’t necessarily bode well for the Redbirds.
St. Louis hasn’t done much against Eovaldi in the past, though they did score three runs in six innings against him on the Fourth of July. They may need a bit more than that tonight.
I didn’t mean for this to be a depressing post and I don’t think it has to be. I’m not saying to stop rooting for this team, I’m just saying maybe we temper our expectations. It might make us healthier–all this stress can’t be good for us!