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Lackluster play lands Cardinals in third place

I thought Albert Pujols' early return was supposed to be the savior of the Cardinals' season.

But the Birds, who won five of seven games before their superstar first baseman made a surprising recovery from a broken wrist, have now lost three of four since his comeback.

Pujols is hitting the ball hard, so I'm reluctant to blame the swoon on the idea that he came back too soon and it's hurting the ballclub. But it might have been nice if he was willing to take a rehab tour to try to get his timing back before giving the Cardinals three nights of oh-fers in four games since his return. And right in the sweet spot of the line-up, too.

The Cardinals, working well as a team before Albert came back, seem to be back in the mode of waiting around for the big guns to do something instead of being consistent throughout the lineup. Maybe they should take a page out of the book of the Pirates.

Pittsburgh doesn't have any big name stars to speak of. But they play good fundamental baseball. And they catch and pitch with the best teams in the National League. Maybe that's why they, along with the Brewers, passed the Redbirds in the standings Friday night.

It was funny when the Buccos passed the Reds. But now it's time for the Cardinals to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they're justifying their paychecks by playing one diminsional baseball.

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