Every time it seems the St. Louis Cardinals have finally got their act together and that they’re on the verge of making a run, they come up with unexpected and exciting new ways to disappoint.
Thursday night was no exception.
The Redbirds had their ace on the mound against New York Mets starter Seth Lugo who came into the game with less than 24 innings pitched in the big leagues and in search of his first major league win. Despite his on again, off again season, Adam Wainwright is one of the best big game pitchers in baseball. He’d be a force to be reckoned with as the Cardinals attempted to assert their dominance over the Mets who were trying to crawl back into the wild card race, right?
Not so much.
The Cardinals needed one win to take two of three in a series — at home — against a mildly competitive team. But they just didn’t show up.
While we can make excuses about bad calls and unfortunate defense, the fact of the matter is that Wainwright gave up nine hits and two walks in only five innings of work. Two of the seven runs he surrendered were earned. But it wasn’t like he didn’t play a role in putting himself in danger. Meanwhile, Lugo allowed only two hits and no runs in his five innings of work. And he got that first MLB win in the process. Meanwhile, the St. Louis batsmen didn’t do a darn thing against the Mets pitching for the first seven innings of the game.
While St. Louis scored four runs in the last two innings to make the game seem relatively competitive, two-thirds of their runs were scored in garbage time and they really never put up much of a fight.
The Cardinals not only allowed New York to stay in the race at 3.5 games back. They gave the Miami Marlins a break as they stayed 1.5 games back despite a loss to the Kansas City Royals. The Pittsburgh Pirates gained a game to pull within two after an extra innings victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
It’s pretty much been conceded that the Cardinals have blown their chance to catch the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central race. But they’re in pretty good position to win a wild card berth — if they play like they’re capable of playing.
The problem is that they just won’t.
The Birds follow every winning streak with an equal losing streak. They seem to blow every advantage they get while passing out extra base runners and extra bases like candy because of poor defense and pitching.
The Cardinals aren’t without their flaws. But they sure seem to be better individually than they play as a team. Maybe the curse of 2011 is that, with St. Louis’ spectacular drive to get in the playoffs and then win the whole thing, we’ve been conditioned to believe that it’s never too late to come back.
But there are only so many opportunities. And the Birds are giving away way too many of them to make it seem as if they’re serious about playing some October baseball.