Another Letdown for The Cards

The Cardinals really needed a win this weekend. Not a win in a game; a win in a series. They needed to take care of their business against a Philadelphia Phillies team that has struggled badly this season, from a variety of standpoints. The Cardinals needed to, in short, play like a team fighting for their postseason lives. Because that's exactly what the Redbirds are right now. 

Unfortunately, the desperate, fiery team that needed to show up in Philadelphia was not, in fact, the team we saw on the field. At least not enough. The result? Another series loss, two of three to the Phillies. Another series this team could ill afford to lose, right there in the column with the big L at the top of it. 

That's the bad news. Here's the worse news: the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds both won yesterday, extending their respective leads over the Cardinals in the process. The Redbirds now find themselves a full 7 games out of first, and 2.5 games behind the Pirates. Like I said, it's getting awfully late in the season for the Cards to keep losing series like this and falling further behind. 

Some more bad news: Lance Lynn hasn't yet managed to figure out that whole first inning thing. His ERA in the first frame of the game is now a rather shocking 8.22; his second-worst inning is the second, with an ERA of 3.91. Once he makes it past those first two innings, Lynn settles in and does just fine for himself, but those first two are real killers. 

Of course, he's not the only pitcher -- nor the only really excellent pitcher, for that matter -- to struggle in the early goings of a game. Matt Morris, as good as he was at times for the Cards, was notoriously bad in the first inning. Greg Maddux, one of the greatest to ever take the mound, had an ERA over 4.00 in the first inning for his career, and nothing above 3.40 the rest of the way. Why some pitchers seems to struggle early on isn't exactly clear, beyond the notion it takes some guys a little longer to find the feel for their pitches on a given day, but Lynn is hardly alone in his early-inning struggles. 

However, even keeping that in mind, an 8.22 just isn't going to cut it. The sample size is very small, of course; 23.0 innings to be exact. It's possible Lynn's struggles in the first inning are the product of flukey luck or bad defense or something else. It's also possible, however, there's something going on with Lynn early on as he tries to figure out his stuff for the day. If that's the case, he and the Cardinals need to figure something else out, and quick. 

It was also yet another not-so-stellar outing for the Cardinal bullpen yesterday. Marc Rzepczynski continues to struggle, badly; he's been one of the biggest negative differences between the bullpen brilliance we saw last October and the relief woes we've witnessed in 2012. Mitchell Boggs gave up a home run as well that tied the game and saddled him with the blown save, though considering Boggs' excellence this season it probably isn't fair to complain too much about him. Add in the offense's inability to break through against Roy Halladay on Friday, and you get a disappointing series. 

And, as I believe I said earlier, it's getting a little too late in the season to be having very many disappointing series.