As I write this, the St. Louis Cardinals are playing in extra innings against the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday night.
They might come back to win this game. But, even if they do, I think my point stands: If the Redbirds don't stop playing down to lousy teams, they not only aren't going to win the National League Central Division -- they don't deserve to make the playoffs.
The way they have played so far against the Phillies -- a last place team -- is absolutely atrocious. The fielding, pitching and hitting have all failed miserably in key spots. Why should fans believe this is a good team when it keeps going so far out of its way to prove it's not?
Just as was the case in April, the Cardinals play in August as if they don't have a plan. They're not a power-hitting club. But they can't manufacture runs. The had two on and no outs in the ninth inning Saturday and their fourth and fifth hitters struck out. Two sacrifice flies and they would have won the game.
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Even the little, speedy guys can't bunt consistently. Kolten Wong, Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos or Shane Robinson. How in the name of George Kissell could that be allowed to happen?
The Cardinals ought to be playing for first place on Sunday with a pair of wins under their belt. It is simply inexcusable for a team that is supposed to be a contender to blow three-run leads three times in two days against a last place team.
Adding to the frustration -- and I refuse to blame this for the Cardinals failure to win the game up to this point -- but the umpires made another terrible mess of a call that might have allowed St. Louis to sneak off with a victory had they got it right.
Kolten Wong led off the ninth with a long fly ball over the head of the Phillies centerfielder. The ball hit the fence and on the bounce deflected off the outfielder's heel and over the fence. There was no doubt as to what happened because the umpires watched the instant replay. But, despite the fact that the rules clearly state that the base runner should be awarded two bases if a ball goes out of play off a fielder's body, they called the hit a ground rule double.
That's impossible. If Wong reached base safely he would, at the very least, have been entitled to third base. But when he hit the ball over the centerfielder's head, it is entirely reasonable to presume one of the fastest baserunners in the National League would have made it to second base -- and two more bases would have entitled Wong to score.
Anyway, the Cardinals ought to be breathing down the Brewers' necks right about now. But they've played so lousy that they're opening the door for the Pittsburgh Pirates to get back into the race.