The St. Louis Cardinals dropped their third straight game and the seventh in nine games thanks largely in part to Bud Norris. The Houston Astros pitcher went eight innings, gave up one run, and struck out eight to continue his dominance of the Redbirds. In four career starts, he has only allowed one run to St. Louis. The lone run came today after Houston had a comfortable 4-0 lead in the seventh. The final tally was 4-1.
The Cards struggles leave them with a measly half-game lead in the division over the Cincinnati Reds. Before this slide, St. Louis was tied for the best record in the NL and has a commanding lead in the division. Since then, the Reds have caught fire again and sit at 19-15. Cincy has been a team of streaks at this point in the year and it’s hard to measure how much of a threat the Red Machine will be this summer. Some answers may come this weekend when the Cards fly to Cincy for a three-game set. Jaime Garcia takes the ball tomorrow with the chance to spark the team again.
Chris Carpenter was on the mound this afternoon and he provided some fireworks, too. Unfortunately, his fiery display led to a big inning for the Astros rather than an inspiring afternoon from his teammates. Carpenter was great in seven of his eight innings today, but in baseball, all it takes is one pitch, one play, one bad inning to spoil a quality outing. The backbreaker came in the third for the Cards ace. After Lance Berkman got the scoring started with an RBI-single, Carlos Lee stepped to the plate and popped up weakly to short. Disgusted, he slammed his bat to the ground. Carpenter wasn’t pleased with the act and felt disrespected. He let Lee know and the benches cleared. Perhaps still heated about the situation, Carpenter threw a pitch into the heart of the zone that was crushed to center by Hunter Pence for a three-run homer. The Astros never looked back and completed the sweep of St. Louis.
The first vs. worst series was a little bit of a wake-up call for the Cards. No one could have predicted a sweep going into this one. St. Louis will forget about this one and head to Cincinnati to make a statement and regain control of the NL Central.
More thoughts on the Cards after the jump. [...]
The Cardinals are in the midst of their worst run this season. A week ago, they were coming off a big series in Philadelphia in which they dropped three of four. After a weekend in Pittsburgh finished their wild tour of Pennsylvania, the first place Cards came home for a battle with the last place Astros. The struggles continued and the team finds itself in a battle for first. It’s only May and the Cards are still top dog in this race, but it shows how quickly the tide can change in baseball.
-Albert Pujols may be the best example of this individually. After being named Pepsi’s MLB Clutch Performer for his big April, the superstar slugger is hitting .263 in May and said he’s not feeling so Machine-like right now. He said he is still not comfortable in the batter’s box, but it’s nothing to worry about. He said the same thing during the first week of the season and then exploded to hit .345.
-Brendan Ryan is also feeling a little down this month. The usually sure-handed shortstop that makes his name with his leather has consecutive two-error games before this afternoon. He got the day off to recharge and relax. Ryan has also been pressing at the plate. He is hitting .173 this season. Like Pujols, I wouldn’t put too much stock into his troubles. He was playing great at short until the past few days and some of the errors are misleading. He made a throwing error after making a tough play in the hole and another came on a sinking line drive and those are never easy to handle. He just needs to forget this past week and start fresh.
As Yogi Berra once said.”Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
It’s not an easy game and sometimes the daily pressure will even get the best of the pros.
Let’s take some more advice from Yogi to put the Cards struggles in perspective.
Translation: The struggles are deceiving and keep smiling?