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Couldn't the Cardinals have just glided easily into the post season by continuing to win at a 70 percent pace? Of course not. It's their nature to lose five out of six coming down the home stretch to allow the Cubs to get back into contention and give us all a flashback to the great September stumble of 2006.
Cardinals starter Joel Pineiro pitched one terrible inning followed by four and a third decent ones. But the three-run Brewer first inning was all it took as the St. Louis offense remained stuck in neutral, losing 5-2.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols kicks the dirt during St. Louis' Wednesday afternoon game against Florida. AP photo.
As bad as the offense was, the Birds managed to load the bases in the ninth inning and bring grand slam-hitting machine Albert Pujols to the plate with a chance to tie the game. Pujols was hit by a pitch in the back of his shoulder to drive in a run and bring Matt Holliday to the plate. But as great as he has been for the last month, suddenly Holliday hasn't seen a slider out of the strike zone that he doesn't like. He weakly grounded to second to end the game with a thud and the Cardinals dropped to 4-6 in their last 10.
It's not unusual to see a team that was on a hot streak cool off and struggle. But it's disturbing how vulnerable the Cardinals suddenly look. Here's to hoping they can regroup on their Thursday off and come back to take two of three from the Wee Bears to put this thing to bed once and for all.
Fortunately, the Brewers decided to show up Wednesday night and stop the bleeding by beating the Cubs for once. The Milwaukee 9-5 win knocked the Cubs back to 8 1/2 games out while knocking the magic number down to 9.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Pujols was 2-for-4 and took one for the team in a losing effort.
Lowlight: Rick Ankiel struck out two times in an 0-for-3 day. How much longer can this go on? Ankiel has never been right since his nasty collision with the outfield wall a couple of months ago. Does it do him or the team any good to watch him go up to the plate and strike out time after time?