With just two weeks of baseball to play in the 2016 season, it’s still unclear who the St. Louis Cardinals really are.
Every time it seems the Redbirds are ready to go on a run, they fall on their faces. Every time it appears they’re done for, they get up from the mat and show they still have some fight left in them.
It was no different in the four-game set against the San Francisco Giants that the Cardinals completed Sunday. St. Louis was stomped in the first two games of the series which was billed as a season maker or breaker for a club that hasn’t missed the playoffs in more than a half a decade. They were half an inning away from losing the third. Them just as the priest was giving the Birds their last rites, they scored two runs in the ninth in game three to win and then dominated Sunday to end the series leaving fans and the media to wonder if St. Louis’ glass is half full or half empty.
The Cardinals managed to keep the Giants and Mets from burying them in the wildcard hunt. But four games have been wiped off the schedule with St. Louis trailing the New York Mets by two games and the Giants by one.
The Redbirds really needed to win three out of four to catch up with the clubs ahead of them. They have the toughest remaining schedule of the three teams in the National League wildcard race. So far this year, the Birds haven’t been able to find another gear to go on a serious winning streak. New York has gained steam lately while the mediocre series against San Francisco has allowed a team that seemed on the verge of tumbling out of the playoff race to steady itself.
I am much less confident of the Cardinals’ ability to make the playoffs now than I was two weeks or a month ago. Sure, it can be done. But this team needs to finally find a direction, to tighten its defense and to cut the ineffective hurlers that dot its pitching staff from the equation.
What they need to do is obvious. Whether they can get the job done is the big question.
St. Louis is bleeding talent at this point. Slugging outfielder Matt Holliday is likely out for the remainder of the season after suffering a setback in his recover from a broken thumb, it was announced Saturday. Infielder Jhonny Peralta has struggled in his attempt to return from a thumb injury of his own. Michael Wacha didn’t look great as he tries to make it back from shoulder trouble…
It seems all but certain that Jaime Garcia’s days with the Cardinals are numbered. He lost his spot in the rotation to Alex Reyes which seems to be both a short term and long term move at the same time. Last year the front office said Garcia wasn’t suited to pitch out of the bullpen. So it seems the club is basically keeping him around as an insurance policy as he finishes the season.
While Reyes has been fantastic, racking up strikeouts and compiling an earned run average just over 1.00, the Birds have been having less luck finding enough other starters to carry them to the finish line.
Ace Adam Wainwright was abused by the Giants. Carlos Martinez, who has been the best hurler the Birds could muster all season, didn’t do much better. Fellow rookie Luke Weaver looked great for two innings in his San Francisco start. But he can’t seem to make it past the fourth without running out of gas.
If the Cardinals can find a way to make the post season, they might be able to marginalize their abundance of weak hitters and rely on timely offense to get by. But it’s going to be a tougher trick to try to even REACH the playoffs if they can’t find quality innings out of at least three starters and get some more reliable work out of the bullpen.
It’s the Cardinals’ history to come out of nowhere at the end. But they’re doing an incredible job of convincing me they don’t have it in them this year.