The Cards lost only their second series of the year, this time to the Houston Astros. Adam Wainwright is looking better and was able to hold off the sweep, and it may be just in time as Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia come down to earth a bit. Allen Craig and Tyler Greene both went deep yesterday, with Greene going yard twice. Greene’s performance yesterday is why Mike Matheny and John Mozeliak were so excited about him in ST. The Cardinals now get to find out how good they really are. After playing 27 games in a row against the NL Central, the competition gets stiffer.
There are a couple of trends that are disturbing so far in the young season, and that’s what I want to focus on today. One, the Cardinals are 1-5 in 1 run games, and 8-2 in blowouts. The other is the Cards playing down to their competition. Since starting the season 9-3, the Cards have only played .500 ball when they had 6 games with the Pirates, 3 games vs. the Brewers, 3 games vs. the Cubs and 3 vs. the Astros. They took 2 of 3 from the Brewers, but lost 2 of 3 against the Cubs and Astros. The problem with that is that the Cubs and Astros will finish 5th and 6th in the NL Central. Of those 4 losses, 3 were by 1 run.
What’s really disturbing about the one run losses is that closer Jason Motte has only blown 1 game. I don’t want to dwell too much on any one thing after 28 games, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Even after all of the problems with closer Ryan Franklin in 2011, the Cards still finished 26-23 in one run games.
On to another subject is one that is getting a lot attention in the early year, which are the line-ups Matheny is using on days when the Cards have a chance at a sweep. The Cards have failed to sweep a team 4 times this year after taking the first two games of the series. The “B” teams the Cards have fielded on those days seem to have some fans ready to paint Matheny as TLR II. My feeling is mixed. The Cards have position players that have had some serious injury issues in the past few years. Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman, David Freese, Rafael Furcal and Craig just can’t play every day. Yadier Molina also needs a day here and there. The one thing I don’t like is when two big bats take the same day off together. When Berkman returns from the DL, I think this will be less of an issue.
The Cards are currently on pace to win 98 games. Despite some of the early season tough losses and injuries, things still look good. I say the real test starts today. In the month of May, the Cards have 15 games against division winners or second place teams from 2011, 3 against the hot Dodgers of 2012 and only 5 against bottom feeders (2 vs. the Cubs, 3 vs. the Padres).