Today’s devastating loss to the Cubs in extra innings brought home to me a disturbing trend I have been seeing with this team. The offense has lost its punch, its zing, its mojo, if you will. The offense that once could string hits and runs together in multiple innings per game, has disappeared. What replaced it is an offense that consistently misses scoring opportunities, that has hitters taking terribly ugly at bats, and that frankly, just looks lackluster. I have been spending every game for over a month chanting to myself, “Score. More. Runs” only to be bitterly disappointed when it doesn’t happen. Today was no different.
Let’s look at this trend. In the month of September, the Cardinals’ offense has scored 6 or more runs exactly one time—On September 1st. By contrast, in August, the offense scored 6 or more runs 10 times, in July, 8 times, in June, 7 times, in May, 13 times, in April, 7 times. In addition, of the 9 wins in the month of September, 7 were won by 3 runs or less. In August, 9 of 16 wins were by 3 runs or less. The more close games this team plays, the more pressure is put on the bullpen in late innings, and well, today’s loss is a prime example of the result you get when that happens consistently. No bullpen can withstand that for long.
I am seeing at bats by some Cardinals’ hitters that would make a saint curse. Hitters swinging at pitches a foot off the plate, or in the dirt (I’m looking at you Matt Holliday and David Freese). Hitters swinging at first pitches after the pitcher has just given up a four pitch walk. Now, I am not a proponent of never swinging at the first pitch; if it is in your zone and you think you can hit it, then by all means swing. But I have seen many a hitter swing at a first pitch that has been uglier than a lard bucket full of armpits. Where is the plate discipline? If I were a hitting instructor (and I’m not for a very good reason, but I do have very good eyes in my head), I would say there is a whole lot o’ guessin’ going on. And from my vantage point, they are all bad at it. You know, my dad was a baseball coach, and he used to say that you see the ball and you hit the ball. He never said you make a wild guess and hit the ball.
Now, I could complain about some in game strategy. I have been doing a lot of that lately. The WAY TOO MUCH BUNTING that has been going on has really had me going. Carlos Beltran bunting with a man in scoring position in the first inning. SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY? .300 hitters bunting EVER? But today’s loss was not solely on Beltran’s bunt, though it did contribute. Today’s loss, and many others recently, is on an offense that is not doing its job. Scoring enough runs to win the game without putting so much pressure on the bullpen. This offense is capable of doing just that. They have done it many times before this season. They are not doing it now.
Chris Carpenter deserved to win this game today. He deserved after all the sweat and pain he has given this team over the years to not be let down by them. They did just that. Miserably and completely. Shame on them.