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Cardinals still need to tighten up their play

There are several reasons to be concerned about the Cardinals play. No matter how hard they have tried to right their ship:

Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright got off to a really lousy start Tuesday to continue his recent shaky streak. He gave up a two-strike hit in the first inning before serving up a two-run homer to put the Cardinals in a hole right away. He then gave up a solo homer in the second inning to let his team slip further behind as the pitches piled up -- he was pushing 75 after three innings of work. Wainwright gets credit for gutting out five scoreless innings. But he's struggled lately when the Redbirds have needed someone to be dominant.

Of course one can't look past the Cardinals offense which gave Wainwright almost no support Tuesday. The Birds stranded a flock of runners on base and, when they had the bases loaded and no one out David Freese managed to not let a ball that was thrown behind him hit him. Instead of driving in a run and still having the sacks jammed with one out, Freese survived the near free pass and promptly hit into a tailor-made double play. 

Jon Jay got a clutch two-out hit to salvage a second run in the rally. But that hit might have tied the game had Freese let that pitch hit him in the leg. A lot of Redbird rooters have maligned Jay this season. But he has been one of the better Cardinals hitters for the last month.

The only hit Carlos Beltran was able to collect Tuesday night came the only time in four trips to the plate that there was no one on base.

Fire-balling reliever Trevor Rosenthal was like money in the bank from May until August. But he's struggled terribly with his control over the last few weeks -- and especially lately. He seems to have trouble getting the ball down and his lack of confidence in his secondary pitches has made Rosenthal's high Octane fastball predictable. He allowed a lead-off double Friday before he was able to settle in and strike out the side in the Pirates eighth. But he seems more vulnerable lately than he was when the Cardinals were at their peak earlier this season.

Home runs in many ways are over-rated. But, besides the two homer game against the Chicago Cubs by Matt Holliday, the Cardinals power outage is shocking. And not just lately. Beltran seems likely to be the only St. Louis hitter who is going to reach the 20 homer mark. Last year five Cardinals -- who are still with the team -- hit 22 homers or more.

The Cardinals lately have a hits to runs scored ratio that is extremely out of whack. And it seems like one of the reasons is that they're hitters are too one-dimensional. Opposing teams are using shifts and the Redbirds repeatedly hit right into the teeth of them whether it's Matt Adam's ball in the eighth inning that seemed like a sure hit until Neil Walker reached up and caught it 15 yards deep on the outfield grass or when Matt Holliday has ripped a line drive up the middle to find a middle infielder standing directly behind the base.

When the Birds were playing well they were spraying the ball all over the field. Now they refuse to hit the ball the other way with the tying run at third base with two outs in the eighth inning to the team they trail in the division standings even though they're employing a radical shift. If you're Ted Williams, that's macho. If you've won five of your last 20 games, that's just not very bright.

The Cardinals were saved from a loss in regulation by a casual error on the part of Pittsburgh's left fielder that should have been the second out of the game. But the Pirates were spared the threat of facing the hottest Cardinals hitter in the bottom of the ninth with two outs when Beltran managed to get caught between second and third with Matt Holliday waiting to hit.

In the 10th Pete Kozma couldn't manage to hit a fly ball with the bases loaded and one out, instead striking out.

How many chances can they expect to get?