Somehow people seem surprised that the St. Louis Cardinals swept five games from the Chicago teams, the White Sox and the Cubs, then turned around and got swept on their home field by the Minnesota Twins.
Have they not been watching this team, not only this season, but also last year and the year before that?
The Cardinals are a model of inconsistency. They have a lot of talent, although they're weak at key spots. They have enviable depth, but they lack big-game players who can stop a losing streak. Most of all, they have a manager who doesn't seem to give them any sort of edge in tight games. He can't make the club become more than the sum of its parts.
While I am always thrilled to see the Redbirds beat the Cubs, let's not lose our minds with jubilation. Two of those three games came down to the wire and easily could have been lost. I am not trying to take away credit from the local nine. A win is a win is a win. But let's just say that St. Louis has yet to play anything resembling flawless baseball. There is plenty of room for improvement here.
Fortunately, the Cubs seem to be in disarray. This was a club pundits predicted each of the past two years would win the World Series simply by showing up at the ballpark. The Cubs are sort of the anti-Cardinals in more ways than being geographic rivals. While St. Louis has no Kris Bryant or Anthony Rizzo on its roster — instead filling the infield corners with two flawed players in Matt Carpenter (poor defense, bad throwing arm, .150 batting average) and Jose Martinez (terrible, terrible defense), the Cubs don't have the complementary corps of players and the rising young pitching St. Louis boasts. So, when the two teams have clashed, their differences seem to have made them a pretty competitive rivalry.
The Twins rolled into St. Louis four games under .500, but riding a three-game winning streak. They started a rookie pitcher the Birds have never seen before in the opener of the series, which is the Cardinals' Achilles heel. Then they started crafty local product Jake Odorizzi in the finale, tying the impatient St. Louis hitters in knots. Leaning heavy on their bullpen in the taxing Cubs series, the Redbirds on Tuesday were forced to turn to some of their less reliable bullpen options. When Carlos Martinez parted after only five innings, St. Louis brought in Sam Tuivailala who gave up a run on two hits in an inning of work. Then it was Tyler Lyons who gave up a pair of runs on two hits over one frame to raise his season ERA to 6.17. When the game was out of reach, manager Mike Matheny called John Brebbia to the mound.
St. Louis scraped together only two hits the whole contest, one from Jose Martinez, who negated his contribution with his FIFTH error of the season and the other from backup catcher Francisco Pena. A club just isn't going to win too many games when it has more errors (3) than hits.
With the Baltimore Orioles' horrific start, the rumors have once again started to fly that star infielder Manny Machado could soon be trade bait. Both the Cardinals and the Cubs have been rumored landings spots and it's easy to believe that Machado might make the difference for either franchise in 2018. But I would be shocked if either team made that move at this point.
The Cardinals would be a great landing spot for Machado because he'd give the team a much needed boost in the middle of its lineup AND make the defense better, too. If Machado wants to play shortstop, fine. Move Paul DeJong over to third base to make room and get Carpenter's weak arm and lost bat out of the lineup.
The problem, of course, is that the Birds are going to be reluctant to give up top prospects to rent Machado for five months only to leave as a free agent. While I think Machado would make a huge difference and probably assure the Cardinals of a playoff berth — if they stay healthy — I'm not sure if he makes the team a World Series contender.
The Cubs might like Machado this season. But they're supposedly a major player for free agent Bryce Harper this fall. If that's true, it could be difficult to keep Machado and sign Harper. You're basically bidding against yourself in that scenario. And I don't know if the Cubs would want to sign both players when they're already paying Jason Heyward a ton of money for nothing.
It's sort of Chicago's move to make because I don't see the Cardinals making major changes to the roster via trade this year. This is a club that is in love with its pitching prospects and seems doubtful to deal second year shortstop DeJong, dirt cheap center fielder Tommy Pham or catching prospect Carson Kelly.
I think the team you see now is the team we're going to get, sink or swim.
Editor's note: Originally, this story incorrectly said Brebbia gave up two runs to the Twins.