Any remaining hope that the Cardinals would somehow make the postseason has been all but erased as the Los Angeles Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of St. Louis at Busch Stadium with a 9-4 victory this afternoon. The Redbirds were in many ways on life support heading into the series, but things continued to go from bad to worse. Looking back, this series will in all likelihood represent the nail in the coffin or whatever other “it’s all over” metaphor you prefer for the 2011 Cardinals.
This series wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but that’s not about to stop me from recapping it. As we reflect on the agonizing three-game set, the ugly details just cannot be avoided.
Game 1: Dodgers 2, Cardinals 1
Behind a second-inning solo home run by Lance Berkman and eight innings of one-run, seven-strikeout baseball from Chris Carpenter, St. Louis was in prime position to start the series with a win. Carp had one of his best outings of the year, keeping LA bats at bay with ace stuff for eight solid innings. However, Tony La Russa elected to go to the pen to finish the game after Chris hit the first batter he faced in the ninth. Closer Fernando Salas was brought in after Arthur Rhodes collected the first out of the inning via a strikeout. Salas gave up a game-tying RBI triple to Aaron Miles for his fifth blown save of the year. Jason Motte took over from there, but Rafael Furcal couldn’t handle a ground ball to shortstop by Rod Barajas and ended up tossing a wild throw home that enable Miles to score the go-ahead run from third. Other than an infield single, the Cards couldn’t manage much in the home half of the ninth. Oh by the way, there was that whole Matt Holliday moth incident.
Game 2: Dodgers 13, Cardinals 2
This one was one-sided from the very beginning. Eight unanswered runs on the board after only three innings was more than enough for Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw to pick up his National League-leading 16th win of the year. Kershaw worked aggressively with the comfortable lead, tossing six scoreless innings while allowing six hits and striking out eight. Kyle Lohse, on the other hand, was obliterated for a season-high eight runs in three innings of work. Tony La Russa said it best:
"Today was terrible. Find Kyle and ask him because it was mystifying. They had a lot of good looks."
The bullpen, or at least those who are a part of the bullpen, looked sharp in relief, but the damage had been done at that point. The Los Angeles offense was powered by two Rod Barajas homers and three Matt Kemp RBIs. It was a blowout in every sense of the word, and the Cards fell double-digit games behind the Brewers in the NL Central.
Game 3: Dodgers 9, Cardinals 4
On a hot 98-degree afternoon at Busch, the Dodgers’ bats were just that. Los Angeles exploded with a big offensive inning for the second consecutive day, scoring six runs on six hits and batting around in the third inning. Jaime Garcia was the victim of the offensive assault, giving up nine hits and throwing 97 pitches in just five innings of work. Garcia continue his August struggles, and here’s what he had to say afterwards:
"When stuff like that happens, you’ve got to step off and think about the pitch you’re going to make. Just relax for a little bit and try to limit the damage. I’m not going to lie, sometimes I don’t do a very good job. But I’m trying."
Juan Rivera homered and drove in three in the Dodgers’ win, and Matt Kemp collected two more hits and two more RBIs. Although St. Louis managed 11 hits in the contest, three of their four runs scored came after it was an out-of-reach 9-1 ballgame.
If you thought that part of the recap was painful, there’s more to come. The Cards just handed the Dodgers their first road sweep of the 2011 season. It was the second time St. Louis was swept at home, with the other occurring in July against the Blue Jays. Both the Dodgers and Jays are teams that the Cards should handle without too much trouble, but clearly that’s not been the case.
Busch Stadium was one of the better atmospheres for a game not all that long ago, but it seems that fan interest is fading as quickly as the team itself. As a fan, it’s tough to watch. The team has shown no signs of resurgence in recent weeks, and the disappointment that comes with a Cards loss/Brewers win on seemingly a daily basis is tough to swallow. The red-hot Brew Crew finally lost a game today, but of course St. Louis was unable to take advantage.
I hate to give up on this team before it’s all said and done, but it seems that the team has kind of given up on itself. Barring a miracle, ten games back with 32 to play is an insurmountable deficit. The more I think about it, the Cardinals’ deficit in the division is becoming like our country’s financial deficit. As the team draws closer and closer to the .500 mark, I can’t help but wonder what the future holds.