The St. Louis Cardinals walked away from their Sunday game against the San Diego Padres with a win.
But they also walked away from it with troubling questions about why they still, more than three-quarters of the way though the season, can't get their act together and play fundamentally sound baseball.
With their ace on the mound they scored five runs in the first two innings and seemed ready to cruise to an easy victory. But, nearly immediately after he made one of his best plays as a major leaguer on a ball he had to range way to his right to reach before making a long, perfect throw, second baseman Kolten Wong was eaten up by a potential double play ball that opened up the flood gates for the Padres.
Wong appeared undecided on whether to try to catch the ball in the air or field it on the hop. So he awkwardly did neither. So Wainwright, who had cruised through the first four innings of the game, got strung out in a long fifth and seemed never to recover.
The Padres scored two more in the sixth inning to cut the St. Louis lead to 5-4. But the Birds returned the favor and put up a pair in the bottom of the inning to make the score 7-4. After an uneventful seventh, Wainwright departed. Pat Neshek came in and contributed a scoreless inning to seemingly settle the Cardinals ship.
But in the bottom of the ninth Trevor Rosenthal came in and walked the first two batters he faced on nine pitches. After a visit from skipper Mike Matheny, Rosenthal suddenly -- albeit briefly -- remembered how to throw strikes and recorded and out via a strikeout. But then he walked the next hitter to load the bases and Matheny had seen enough.
Seth Maness came in and gave up a hit that made the score 7-6 before, finally, getting the last out and securing the win for St. Louis.
Gaining the victory was much tougher than it should have been against a weak team with their ace on the mound. And the Cardinals should have been extremely motivated to play better after blowing a four-run lead the night before. But it was another sloppy game, so much so that the mood in the stands seemed as if the Redbirds were losing even though they were ahead.
Wainwright was fantastic early. But he seemed worn down in the fifth when the inning was extended and didn't seem to be able to reach back for a little extra to put down the Padres rally.
Rosenthal seems to have completely lost his confidence and either won't or can't throw strikes. He's going to have to turn things around quickly because the Cardinals are playing too many close games to not have an effective closer.
Who is the real Kolten Wong. He made one great play -- but then two lousy ones that let the Padres get back into the game. One of them on the in-between ball up the middle and the other in the sixth when he threw a ball away and allowed a runner to score from third base.
Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers swept the Los Angeles Dodgers. It seems they're starting to come together where the Cardinals, so far, haven't been able.