The Cards were swept at home against the Atlanta Braves. As I have mentioned the last few times, there appears to be two flaws with this team which are winning close games and bullpen woes. The starting pitching in this series wasn’t good either, but it was good enough to avoid being swept. A lot of fans have quickly moved onto the ledge, but there’s no reason to jump just yet.
Let me first say that the Braves have a really, really good team. Anytime you have Chipper Jones hitting 6th in the order and Jason Heyward hitting 7th, you have a deep team on offense. On a side note, It was nice to see the fans give Chipper a standing ovation, just as it was nice to see the Cards retire the number for Tony LaRussa.
The Carlos Beltran show continued in game 1 of the series, but was wasted. His 4 hits which included 2 HR’s, a triple and double along with a walk were wasted. The Cards offense failed to score in extra innings, even though they had the bases loaded twice. It wasn’t a one run loss that I’ve been bitching about, but it might as well have been as they lost a close one 9-7.
Down 5-1, the Cards led by Beltran mounted a comeback to take a 6-5 lead. One trend I’m not agreeing with manager Mike Matheny is him letting Scrabble pitch to RH batters. I’m just not seeing it. Dan Uggla made him pay by tying the game with the tying HR. The Braves took the lead back 7-6 until Beltran tied it with a solo HR at 7-7. In extras, Kyle McClellan blew it, and it started with a walk, followed by a Heyward HR.
Game 1 is the type of games I’ve been complaining about. The Cards have to find a way to win these close and late games. So far, they can’t seem to do so. The now 20-14 record should be much better.
I’m not going to go over every game here, you’ve already watched them and have your own interpretation of the problems. The big problem I see is the bullpen, along with Jaime Garcia’s lack of concentration and the ineffectiveness of Adam Wainwright.
The Milwaukee Brewers have lost their starting SS and 1B for the year. The Reds lost their closer for the year and Scott Rolen is on the DL again. The NL Central is up for grabs, but close game losses are keeping the Cards from running away with it as this point. Yesterday, as much as Lance Lynn struggled, he still only gave up 3 ER in 6 IP, but because of the BP problems, Allen Craig’s 3 run HR in the 9th wasn’t enough.
On to the big picture. These kinds of series happen. The question will be how this team reacts to adversity, and if the BP can get the job done in close games. The thing that worries me the most besides the BP is the Cards not taking care of business when they have such hot players on offense. Beltran, Craig, Jon Jay and Rafael Furcal’s production is being wasted, and they’re not going to continue to be among the leaders all year. The pitching if going to have to come around when the offense starts to struggle, and that’s a concern.
Right now, I’m not sold on the BP as currently constructed. The problems are trades are not going to happen at this point in the year to solidify it, and there’s no one at AAA Memphis to help out that’s ready.
Another problem is the glaring hole at 2B. Neither Tyler Greene or Daniel Descalso are getting the job done at the plate, and it think Matheny is going to have to settle for a little less range and put Skip Schumaker in there on a permanent basis.
I think Matt Holliday and Wainwright will turn it around. Their track record is impressive enough to shed the worries for now. As long as this team stays healthy, October baseball should come once again. In the meantime, the Cards need to find a way to stop the leakage from the BP and win close games. Run differential and WAR says they’re the best team, but the end result is not supporting the stats. So far, the Cards are giving away too many close games.