I'm starting to seriously wonder if the solution to the Cardinals' bullpen woes could be found in the starting rotation.
Former reliever Kyle McClellan was excellent through five innings. But he hit the wall in the sixth, allowing all five runs the Rays scored. What started off as a good night ended with an ugly line of 5 2/3 innings pitched, five earned runs allowed on eight hits.
Johnny Damon led off the Tampa Bay sixth with a single and then Ben Zobrist walked. McClellan got Evan Longoria to pop up and Matt Joyce grounded into a fielder's choice. But then B.J. Upton walked to load the bases -- and McClellan got burned by the back end of the Rays lineup when Casey Kotchman hit a three run double... And then Justin Ruggiano hit his fourth homer of the season to add insult to injury.
The Redbirds have lost the last five games that McClellan has started. He's allowed five earned runs or more in four of those games. And he's only made it into the seventh inning in one of those starts. It seems that he's getting worn down -- which isn't a suprise because Mac has thrown 15 more innings this season than he has in any entire year of his career up to this point.
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Maybe the guy just isn't meant to be a starter. He could be very valuable to this club back in his old role as a righty setup man. Of course, then the Cardinals would be pressed to find another starting pitcher. And that's a tougher find than bullpen help.
The Saturday night loss wasn't all McClellan's fault. It certainly would have helped if the Cardinals put more than one run -- a Lance Berkman solo homer -- on the scoreboard.
The Redbirds scattered 10 hits but couldn't reach the plate against a Tampa Bay starter who sported an ERA well over 5.00.
While it was an ugly ending, the game was pretty to watch. The Cardinals sported their 1951 uniforms with the classic blue cap with the red bill and "STL" logo that Stan Musial wore for most of his career. The Rays wore the uniforms of the 1951 Tampa Smokers minor league club -- minus, thanks to political correctness, the burning cigar that underlined the team name on the front of the jersey.
Cardinals Star of the Game: David Freese was 2-for-2 with a walk to push his batting average to .375 for the season.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Berkman's homer.
Lowlight: It was a disappointment, to say the least, to see a pitcher who has been beat around like a pinata completely shut down the Cardinals for six innings.