The Cardinals had to overcome not one -- but two -- unexplained phenomina if they hoped to win Saturday at Houston.
And, when the smoke cleared, it was fairly obvious that they never really had a chance.
First, they needed to solve the great mystery of why Bud Norris is a terrible pitcher against the rest of the teams in the known baseball universe. But, when he takes the mound against the Cardinals he suddenly morphs into Cy Young Jr. And, second, the Redbirds needed to find a way to prevent lefty Jaime Garcia from shooting himself in the foot on the road. They never came close to doing either.
Norris improved to 2-1 on the season with a 4.58 ERA -- and 7-1 against St. Louis with a 2.21 ERA --- after holding the Birds to one run on three hits over six innings. St. Louis couldn't do a thing with the four free passes he issued. But you couldn't say the same thing about the Astros and Garcia's genorosity.
After being handed a one-run lead in the top of the first inning, Garcia in the bottom half of the frame allowed a single then recorded a pair of quick outs. Just as it looked like he was going to recover from the lead-off hit, he walked the bases full. Catcher Yadier Molina went to the mound to calm his hurler. And, initially, it seemed as if it worked because Garcia threw a pair of strikes to Chris Johnson... And then he threw Johnson a ball right down the pipe and the Astros third baseman hit a towering grand slam to right field to make it 4-1 Houston.
You could just see the St. Louis players shoulders slump and the offense wilted after that. Besides a cosmetic run in the eighth, they couldn't do a darn thing against a pretty poor Astros pitching staff. The Cardinals stranded a whopping 20 runners on base -- six of them by Molina -- as they couldn't come up with a clutch hit to save their lives.
Cardinals Star of the Game: How about Carlos Beltran? He drove in the run that gave St. Louis its only lead and he only left three runners stranded.
Cardinals Play of the Game: For the second day in a row, Jon Jay made another great catch in centerfield. This time it was a running grab deep into the left centerfield nook at the warning track.
Lowlight: I can't stand 0-2 hits. So an 0-2 grand slam homer is about as aggitating as it gets.