Hitting in scoring position -- and just plain old hitting -- continue to be a problem for the Cardinals early in the 2014 campaign.
Friday night against Pittsburgh the Redbirds managed only six hits. Yet they still stranded 18 runners on base. Those statistics don't make much sense on their face. But they reflect the fact that the Cardinals frustratingly got runners on early in innings and then failed in repeated chances to move them around the bases and bring them home.
As a team, the Birds have 25 hits through four games, good for a team batting average of .191. While it's easy to try to dismiss the anemic offensive numbers as a result of cold and rainy early season weather, somehow, the opposition manages to do alright. The other guys have 35 hits in four games.
And then there is the issue of defense...
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Only two teams in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers who each have eight, can top the Cardinals' six errors through four games. Only Texas, at .945, has a lower fielding percentage than the .959 St. Louis has achieved.
The Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays haven't made an error yet this season.
The pitching match-up Saturday will be no picnic for the Cardinals. St. Louis will send Joe Kelly, chosen to replace injured starter Jaime Garcia despite inferior work in a spring training "competition" with Carlos Martinez, to the hill against another dreaded lefty, Francisco Liriano.
Kelly has had success against the Bucs in the past, putting up a 3-1 record against them in 2013 with a 2.53 ERA. And he was actually better on the road than at Busch Stadium. He had a 2-0 record with an 0.64 ERA at PNC park.
Lirano, however, has been no picnic for the Redbirds over his career. He's 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA against St. Louis. That's his lowest ERA against the 28 teams in MLB that he's faced.
Most of that work came last year when Lirano was 3-0 with a 0.75 ERA against St. Louis. He has a 1.36 ERA at PNC Park for his career and has only lost one decision there.