St. Louis Cardinals: Offense continues to squander good pitching

Apr 30, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter (13) celebrates after hitting a double during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 30, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Carpenter (13) celebrates after hitting a double during the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Cardinals rallied for a 7-run 11th-inning in Tuesday’s game against the Phillies for a 8-1 win. However, for much of the game, the offense squandered another quality start by a Cardinals pitcher.

At this point in the season, the St. Louis Cardinals will take any win they can get. Yesterday’s eleven inning affair was a perfect description of the St. Louis Cardinals’ season so far. They received excellent starting pitching from Mike Leake. Base running let the team down. The offense left runners in scoring position.

The Cardinals scored their first in the top of the second inning on a home run by Jedd Gyorko. This gave starter Mike Leake a lead to work with throughout the game. While he eventually surrendered the tying run in the 4th inning, Leake returned to form going six inning of one run ball. He only gave up three hits, struck out five batters, and walked two.

Unfortunately, the St. Louis Cardinals’ offense sputtered the rest of the way. After Gyorko’s homer run, The Cardinals found themselves with runners on first and third with one out. Paul DeJong came up to bat and popped up to shallow left field. Diaz was not able to score on the play. Mike Leake followed DeJong to end the inning.

The following inning Matt Carpenter drew a lead-off walk. The red-hot Dexter Fowler doubled to center to put runners on third and second with no one out. Stephen Piscotty hit a ground ball to the third base side. Carpenter, going off contact, was caught in a run-down. Trying to salvage the situation, Carpenter remained in the run-down to let Fowler advance to third.

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If you were watching the game at that point, like me, you probably started getting a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Were the Cardinals really not going to score any runs this inning? Gyorko walked into the batter’s box and grounded into a double play. Surely nothing else would happen, right?

DeJong opened up the fifth frame by doubling to left field. After Mike Leake’s failed bunt attempt., Carpenter drew another walk.

Yet again, the red-hot Fowler stepped up to the plate with a chance to cash in some runs. Fowler smashed a line drive right at the right field for the first out. DeJong, not realizing what had happened, was doubled off second to end the inning.

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It’s fitting the Cardinals wasted the only scoring chances they had while Mike Leake pitched. I mean, is it not the same story we have seen for a month or so? I don’t even want to count how many missed opportunities the St. Louis Cardinals lost yesterday. I think the most frustrating thing about these types of games, is the basic lack of fundamentals.

Take Carpenter’s run-down scenario . I am working off the assumption Carpenter, and third base coach Mike Shildt, decided to go on contact. After the play happened, there was a mini debate on whether Carpenter was at fault for this. I can see both sides to the argument, but Carpenter is mainly at fault for this play.

As a base runner on third base, your primary job is to see the ball through the infield and tag up on a fly ball to the outfield. However, the scenario also depends on how many outs . With no outs, Carpenter should freeze on a ball hit back to the pitcher or to the third baseman.

Why? With a good throw, the ball will more than likely beat the runner home. I understand I can’t possibly calculate for human error, but a ninety foot throw is different than one from 150 feet away.

Why is it a mistake? Think of how Carpenter’s scenario played out. By going on first contact, and getting stuck in a run-down, not only did Carpenter give the Phillies an out, but the Cardinals went from two runners in scoring position to just one. Carpenter was smart enough to stay in the run-down to allow Fowler to get to third, but it shouldn’t have happened.

As much blame as Carpenter gets, Mike Shildt deserves some too. He knows the scenario just like Carpenter. The first thing he should have said to Carpenter was to get back. What happens if Carpenter has a big lead though? As a third base coach you should tell Carpenter you’re being too aggressive.

The other example is DeJong mishap on the base paths.

Base running 101: freeze on a line drive and see the ball down. I’m not too sure what he was thinking, but he needs to do better. If he freezes on the line drive, he doesn’t get double off and keeps the St. Louis Cardinals in the inning. What about scoring on the play?

If the right fielder were to have dropped it, then DeJong probably doesn’t score. It’s not a bad thing because you have Stephen Piscotty coming up with the bases loaded.

If the right fielder let’s the ball get by him, DeJong would score from second no matter if he froze or not. Again, these types of fundamental mistakes can cost you games. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are no strangers to that. However, this falls on everyone. The players and coaches need to do better.

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I know everything isn’t simple when it happens in live. However, when the games come down to a single run or two, these types of plays make a difference. Ultimately, it’s the difference between a win and a loss, something the St. Louis Cardinals can’t continue to afford. I’ve almost come to grips with the fact that no matter if the Cardinals trade for upgrade offensively, these fundamentals will continue to be an issue.

Next: The Cardinals as buyers and sellers

The St. Louis Cardinals look to continue to beat up on the Phillies tonight at 6:05 CT. Hopefully the Cardinals’ offense can complement the starting pitching this time around. One thing to watch out for is Michael Wacha‘s start today. With all the talk about putting him in the bullpen, I’d like to see him step up.