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Monday, July 25, 2011

Cardinals Make Statement in Pittsburgh, Then Promptly Retract It

Posted By on Mon, Jul 25, 2011 at 3:28 PM

click to enlarge so_near_and_yet_so_far_away_columbia.jpg
If you're looking for an allegorical representation of the Cardinals' season so far, you could do a whole lot worse than the weekend series against Pittsburgh

After all, it was a series absolutely fraught with symoblic importance, as both teams came in trying to make a statement. For the Pirates, they were trying to prove their legitimacy by beating the big red gorilla of the NL Central, the team which has consistently been at or near the top of the standings since we entered the third millenium. The Cardinals, on the other hand, came in looking to put the young upstarts in their place, and reestablish the natural order of things in the division. 

Well, the Cards came close to doing it. And like I said before, almost getting the job done seems as good a modus operandi as any to assign to this team. 

The Cards looked brilliant the first two games, with their top two pitchers on the mound and the offense clicking on, if not all cylinders, then most of them. Then, of course, came the third game, and all that good stuff turned bad, and all of the bad stuff was, in fact, all the exact same problems this team has had all along. 

Kyle Lohse was shaky, giving the Cards just five innings of marginally effective pitching. The bullpen, called on to work half the game, was solid enough but not perfect. The defense -- and when I say defense I don't mean Ryan Theriot specifically, but I certainly wouldn't blame you if you read it that way -- was porous and worse, essentially handing the game over. The offense put the whole city of St. Louis on base and then failed to drive them in, stranding 11 while going 0-8 with runners in scoring position. And there was, of course, the requisite dumbass baserunning play, which the Cardinals are trying to file for a patent on, this time courtesy of Gerald Laird, who got picked off second base in what can only be described as one of the single stupidest acts I've ever seen on a baseball field. 

In fact, the only 2011 bugaboo which failed to rear its ugly head was the double play ball, which the Cards did manage to avoid. (Which is somewhat surprising, considering the ineptitude with men on.) The big bats in the middle of the lineup, the Pujols and the Puma, went a combined 1-10 on the day. 

And so, in the end, what should have been a successful series, a series win on the road, instead became symbolic of everything this frustrating season has been for the Cardinals. They made their statement, beating the upstarts two in a row, and then squandered the chance to turn a pretty good weekend into an authentically great weekend by having all their flaws exposed in one maddening afternoon of close calls. The Pirates, Brewers, and Cards are all dead even, when just one well-timed hit or competent shortstop play would have put the birds in first all by themselves. 

What's that? Oh, the shortstop comment? Yeah, I know what I said. But I have a confession to make: when I mentioned poor defense I really was talking about Ryan Theriot. 

Just one more opportunity missed in a season already full of them. The good news is the Cardinals open a home series tonight against the Astros. The bad news is Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, no matter how many pitches Carp promises to throw, can't possibly pitch every game the rest of the season. 

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