Cheap Seats

The Cardinals snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and we should have expected it

I thought for all the world that the St. Louis were poised to make a big final push toward their first postseason appearance in three years.

Sadly, the table was set up for them. But they fumbled their way out of the wild card lead and an opportunity to push themselves up the National League Central standings. The first two games of this showdown have been nothing short of embarrassing.

That’s what I get for being optimistic.

The Chicago Cubs lost the first two games of their series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. If the Cardinals could have won the first two against the Milwaukee Brewers, they’d be knocking on the door of second place and they’d have a chance to win the division if they swept the Chicago Cubs in the last series of the year. Instead, they’ve been passed by the Colorado Rockies in the wild card standings and are on the outside hoping for help.

There are a lot of good pieces on the St. Louis roster. But they don’t have a lot of experienced big guns. While some of the young guys might get better with some more big league playing time, right now the team has a bunch of third or fourth starters and no true ace. The veterans washed out in the bullpen and put the responsibility on the shoulders of a bunch of rookies. The kids, especially Jordan Hicks and Dakota Hudson did a great job for a while. But the problem with rookies is that they’re not used to pitching for a long major league season. It seems apparent that Hicks, Hudson and others are just out of gas. Brett Cecil, who pitched Tuesday night, is one of the lone veteran holdovers due to his ill-advised long term contract. But, after giving up a walk and two hits — including a three run homer — in one inning of work, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Redbirds fan who has seen more than enough of him and his 6.89 earned run average.

Over his last 15 games, Cecil has an ERA of 14.90 with 15 hits and 16 earned runs allowed in 9 1/3 innings of work. He’s walked 10 in that period and struck out seven. There’s just nothing there to make anyone believe he’s going to get better. The only reason he’s around is because he has a contract.

Trying to make up for the fact that they didn’t get a middle of the order hitter to bat behind Marcell Ozuna, the Redbirds have been forced to play defensively (ahem) challenged outfielder Jose Martinez in right field and it’s cost the team dearly on several occasions. Not quite as many body blows as it dealt to the club when Martinez was playing first base. But it’s still pretty awful.

It’s not lost on the fans that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers went out and filled their holes with veteran performers at the trade deadline while the Birds dealt away the likes of Tommy Pham and got no big league ready pieces in return. The road to the playoffs has gone through those two clubs and St. Louis has found the route to be closed, losing five of six meetings.

The Cardinals certainly aren’t dead, just half-game out with four to play. But they’ve made things a whole lot harder on themselves. Realistically, they need to win their last four games to have a chance to play in October. But, if St. Louis can’t beat playoff quality teams, what’s the point of making it to the postseason anyway?