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Cardinals shrink again and return to second

Just when it looked as if the Cardinals had put their August swoon behind them, they've managed to lose -- and in spectacular fashion, I might add -- three of their last four games against competition for the NL Central title.

Adam Wainwright, who had the worst start of his career last outing against Cincinnati in his first start since being inexplicably allowed by manager Mike Matheny to throw 128 pitches in his fifth complete game of the season, didn't do too much better Monday.

The St. Louis ace slogged through six innings, giving up six runs on 10 hits. He was unable to hold Cincinnati scoreless in any of his first four innings of work and the game was over before the Cardinals knew it. The hitters chipped in four hits, with two of them going to Matt Holliday who also had a sacrifice fly.

Unfortunately, the lopsided game didn't even result in Wainwright getting some extra rest in order to try to get back back on top of his game. He was allowed to throw 97 pitches in a game that was long out of hand before he departed.

People can argue all they want about how many pitches and how many starts in a season pitchers used to make. But Wainwright was obviously not himself the last two days. His command was terrible and his breaking pitches hung and rolled all day. He struck out only three hitters in his six innings of work.

The bottom line is that pitchers are groomed to throw about 100 pitches. You can't just up the stress you put on your body by a quarter or a third and expect that there won't be consequences.

The Cardinals can put the Reds right in the thick of the NL Central race with losses in their remaining games in Cincinnati or they can pound the Reds back to the fringe. It's really up to them. They need to quit making excuses and find some consistency. Because there is no explanation for this club to get pounded repeatedly.