The Cardinals took a huge step backwards in a week filled with down notes. They lost Rafael Furcal potentially for the season, they are dangerously close to losing their wild card spot, and they lost more games than they won. It was a week to forget, but let’s look back at the few high and many lowlights.
Monday: Cardinals 4 Pirates 3
The Cardinals came into a three game set with Pittsburgh riding a wave of momentum after a strong previous week. They fell behind early as Kyle Lohse gave up two runs in the fourth inning, but the Cardinals pitching staff was stingy the rest of the way while the offense went to work. After the Cardinals tied the game up in the fifth inning, Matt Holliday hit a towering upper deck shot that caused manager Mike Matheny to say
"”He killed it. It’s hard to hit a ball that hard the opposite way but it was still going up when it hit the seats. He really hit it.”"
Tuesday: Cardinals 0 Pirates 9
The second game of the series started out with a scary moment for the Cardinals as the Pirates Josh Harrison violently collided with Yadier Molina at the plate and took the catcher out of the game. The hit caused a lot of controversy in Cardinal Nation as many viewed it as a dirty hit. Yadi himself cleared the air by declaring it a clean hit, but this Cardinals fan doesn’t think that makes it any less of a bush league play. Pedro Alvarez provided the pop for the Pirates as he blasted two home runs and ended the night with four hits and four RBIs. James McDonald, Hisanori Takahashi, and Chris Resop held the Cardinals hitters to only five hits in a shutout performance. Jake Westbrook had one of his poorest performances of the season, but obviously didn’t receive any help from the offense.
Wednesday: Cardinals 0, Pirates 5
The Cardinals continued their scoreless ways as they were held to five hits yet again and were shutout by Wandy Rodriguez and the Pirates bullpen. Pedro Alvarez continued his hot hitting with another home run and three RBIs. David Freese and Tony Cruz pitched in two hit performances, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a poor outing by Joe Kelly. If there is a silver lining to the scoreless performance, it was the outing by Trevor Rosenthal. Rosenthal put in a three inning shutout performance and may have earned himself a spot start down the stretch to audition for the rotation next season.
Thursday: Cardinals 1 Nationals 8
The Cardinals were shut down by a familiar face in Edwin Jackson. Jackson helped the Cardinals win a World Series last season, but he showed no sympathy for his old teammates Thursday as he fanned ten batters in eight innings. The Cardinals offense could only manage four hits and one unearned run against the locked in Jackson and Mike Gonzalez. Jaime Garcia was not nearly as sharp as he was in his first start back from the disabled list as he gave up six earned runs and couldn’t make it out of the sixth inning. Lance Lynn had another poor outing out of the bullpen and gave further evidence to the belief that his arm may be dead. Matheny stated that he would undergo the same offseason conditioning program that Jake Westbrook went through last Winter with an eye towards stretching him to a full season of starts. Edward Mujica pitched another scoreless frame and has not allowed a run in fourteen and a third innings since being traded to the Cardinals.
Friday: Cardinals 0 Nationals 10
The Cardinals went through their fourth consecutive game without an earned run as they were completely dominated by Gio Gonzalez. The Nationals lefty pitched a complete game shutout while striking out eight batters. His performance was not matched by Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright. Wainwright couldn’t make it out of the third inning before allowing six earned runs and allowing twelve base runners. The lone bright spot for the Cardinals was the two hit night for Jon Jay, but neither the rest of the lineup nor the pitching staff could get things going against the red-hot Nationals.
Saturday: Cardinals 10 Nationals 9
The offense made up for lost time with a fourteen hit ten run performance on Saturday. Matt Holliday and David Freese both belted home runs and Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Matt Carpenter, and Freese all had multi-hit performances. The Cardinals even had things going on the basepaths, as Freese and Craig each stole a base. The team needed a strong showing from the offense thanks to the poor performance by the usually steady Kyle Lohse. Lohse couldn’t pitch out of the sixth and allowed eight runs on nine hits. The bullpen backed him up as the back end quartet of Fernando Salas, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte shut down the Nats through three and a third to preserve the lead and finally pick up a victory.
Sunday: Cardinals 3 Nationals 4
In what could be one of his last starts this season, Stephen Strasburg shut out the Cardinals through six innings. He only allowed two hits and a walk while striking out nine batters. On the other end of the box score, Jake Westbrook pitched five and a third innings of two run baseball, but Lance Lynn cost the Cardinals the game with a two-run seventh inning. Matt Holliday picked up two hits and Daniel Descalso hit his fourth home run of the season, but the Cardinals couldn’t get enough going to upend the NL East leading Nationals.
|St Louis Cardinals||72||62||0.537||9.5||40-26||32-36||643||546||78||56||19|
|St Louis Cardinals||72||62||0.537||0||40-26||32-36||643||546||78||56||28|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||72||63||0.533||0.5||37-31||35-32||537||511||71||64||28|
The Cardinals deficit in the NL Central increased to an almost unmanageable 9.5 games. Obviously, with the events of last season, you can’t count the Cardinals out. However, last season’s surge was so historic because of it’s rarity. It’s safe to say the Reds have the division wrapped up. For the last few months, the Cardinals had the benefit of their Pythagorean record being better than the Reds, but the ratios have evened out. The rebuilding Cubs and Astros are both officially mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, but that was only a matter of time.
The real story is emerging in the wild card. The Cardinals only hold a half game lead over the Dodgers, but with the Braves not playing as sharp as they had been, both spots are wide open. The Pirates are still very much in contention with only a 1.5 game deficit to overcome, and the Diamondbacks remain a dark horse, but are fading.
What’s On Tap?
|Team||vs New York||vs New York||vs New York||Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee Brewers||Milwaukee Brewers|
|Time||1:15 C||7:15 C||12:45 C||7:15 C||6:15 C||1:15 C|
After a grueling road trip against two playoff contenders, the Cardinals return home to face slightly lesser competition. The Cardinals have a better team on paper than the Mets, but 1-3 against them this season. They fare better against the Brewers, with an 8-4 season record coming into the series. Beyond the playoff implications, extra interest will be given to these games as the question of whether Shelby Miller will see any starts has to come in to play.
Can the Cardinals turn things around after an abysmal week? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.