A lack of fundamentals is killing the St. Louis Cardinals lately.
For the second day in a row Tuesday the Redbirds had the Milwaukee Brewers on the ropes only to fumble away the contest in the late innings. In both games St. Louis at one point had a three-run lead. And in both cases the failure to execute the most basic of offensive plays ended up turning a win into a loss.
On Monday the Cardinals got a lead-off double in a tie game from Matt Holliday. Peter Bourjos, an outfielder known primarily for his speed, was asked to bunt Holliday to third for a chance to sacrifice him home with what would have been the winning run.
One would think a speedy player ought to know how to bunt. It's a skill that goes hand-in-hand with his talent. But Bourjos managed to put the ball in play in such a way to allow Milwaukee to execute a very difficult play in which its third baseman charged the bunt and the shortstop covered third Holliday was tagged out, essentially killing the rally.
On Tuesday the Cardinals managed to tie the game at four after blowing a 3-0 lead. With a runner at third base and one out, Matt Adams struck out feebly -- apparently while trying to hit a ball to the moon, when a lazy fly ball would have provided the difference.
I'm not asking for a dramatic three-run homer. And the Cardinals don't need to bat .330 with runners in scoring position. They just need to be able to sacrifice. And if they can't do that with some consistency, they're going to cost themselves a run or two a game, easily.
Right now, it's the difference between winning and losing games.
I was worried in the spring that it seemed the Cardinals were too casual. They were the consensus favorites by many to return to the World Series and by nearly all to repeat as NL Central champions. So they strutted around through Grapefruit League games. It didn't matter when they lost games in March to inferior teams. But it matters now.
Maybe that's the message the Redbirds were trying to send when they set out highly-touted rookie Kolten Wong and popular role player Shane Robinson. Nothing is sacred and I don't care what the name on the back of the jersey says. If they don't know how to play fundamental baseball, they don't deserve to play in St. Louis.