The Cardinals' struggles against the worst teams in baseball is unacceptable

The Cardinals may still be in playoff contention, but their inability to beat the worst teams in baseball is a major cause for concern.
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins
St. Louis Cardinals v Miami Marlins / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

The St. Louis Cardinals have been playing electric baseball ever since Oli Marmol's animated ejection on Mother's Day, but this hot stretch has been marred by one glaring weakness. No, it's not that the Cardinals lose to the top contenders in the league. In fact, it's quite the contrary. The Cardinals were the first team since Adley Rutschman's call-up in 2022 to sweep the Baltimore Orioles. However, the same team that took down the mighty Orioles split a series with the Colorado Rockies and lost a series to the Miami Marlins.

With the addition of the third Wildcard making room for two new teams in the Postseason every year, more and more teams are entering the race and vying for a chance at a World Series championship. So, there are few teams in Major League Baseball that are truly dreadful this year. For this article, we'll refer to five, the ones with a winning percentage below 40: the Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins, and Colorado Rockies.

With the new schedule system, in which each team will play all 29 other teams during the season regardless of NL/AL divisions, the Cardinals have played games against all five. Aside from three games on the road at Coors Field, the Cardinals have played all of their games against these bottom-feeding teams. Unfortunately, things have not gone as planned.

They opened the season rather strong against the worst teams in baseball, taking 2 of 3 from the Marlins and A's in the early goings, but things quickly fell apart as the Cardinals hit rock bottom. After a close win where ace Sonny Gray threw seven shutout innings, the Cardinals proceeded to drop the following two games to one of the worst teams in baseball history. In game 2, the Cardinals squandered an opportunity to tie the game in the 10th inning with runners at the corners and nobody out. While the White Sox were certainly helped by an egregious missed call by C.B. Bucknor, the Cardinals never should've been in that position to begin with. Then, an implosion by Giovanny Gallegos allowed the White Sox to take game 3 with a score of 5-1.

This White Sox series marked the beginning of a horrendous losing streak that ended with a Cardinals team at 15-24 and many questioning whether or not St. Louis would make emergency changes midway through the season. Fortunately, they got back on track in Anaheim by taking 2 of 3 from the Angels, but that was the last of their success against these teams.

Back in the playoff picture, the Cardinals had a big chance to climb over .500 against the Colorado Rockies but only managed a series split. The story in both losses was again the inability to score with runners in scoring position. With a chance to build momentum and finally show this team's potential, the Cardinals rolled over to the Rockies and played down to their level. Things did not get better a week later in Miami.

When Sonny Gray was prematurely pulled with fewer than 90 pitches in the 8th inning, Oli Marmol went to his depleted bullpen in game 1 against the Marlins. It quickly bit the Cardinals as JoJo Romero allowed a walk and a game-tying homer sending the game into extra innings. Ultimately, the Cardinals won the game, but this bullpen move might've cost the Cardinals the following two games.

Backed against a wall with a depleted bullpen, the Cardinals failed to take advantage of numerous chances to blow the Marlins away on both the offensive and the pitching sides of the game. They fell in walk-off fashion in both of the last two games of the series, falling below .500 again as they attempted to build ground in the NL Wildcard standings.

The Cardinals' inability to beat the "bad teams" has been an overlooked storyline this season. They've played well against contending teams, winning many important games when they need to. However, when playing against the worst teams in baseball, the Cardinals still play extremely close games, stooping down to the level of the competition. It's cost them many opportunities to gain ground in the playoff race, and it's unacceptable. By not taking advantage of the easier parts of their schedule, the Cardinals are burning the already overworked bullpen. They're still very much in the playoff race, but if injuries or underperformance start to affect the bullpen, look to losses in these winnable games as the start of the Cardinals' downfall.