The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in baseball.
So why is it so excruciating when they lose?
Well, at least for me, it is the club’s inability to execute even the most fundamental of fundamentals combined with its extraordinary ability to play down to the weakest of competition.
St. Louis lost 3-2 to the lowly Cincinnati Reds Tuesday. They’ve lost three of four meetings with the Reds over the past few days despite the fact that the fourth-place team was a seller at the trade deadline, auctioning off its two best starting pitchers.
On Tuesday it was not Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake on the hill against St. Louis hitters. It was previously sub-.500 starter Anthony DeSclafini who was 5-7 with a 3.98 record before his last two games. Both those contests were against the Cardinals, both were wins and both were unnecessarily dominating: 13 innings pitched, 10 hits and two runs allowed.
The Birds, like in their eventual walk-off win Sunday against the Colorado Rockies, had several chances to score in which they just couldn’t put one and one together.
In the fourth, Jhonny Peralta led off with a single and was left standing on first base. In the fifth, Randal Grichuk led off with a single and was doubled off when Lackey popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt. In the seventh, Kolten Wong led off with a hit but couldn’t score, in the eighth Peralta walked with one out and was stranded and in the ninth the Cardinals helplessly flailed at Aroldis Chapman’s heat when it seemed like he would have started to issue walks if they just would have let them.
But it shouldn’t have come down to the ninth.
If the Cardianls could have advanced runners earlier in the game with productive outs, they could have -- they would have- scored at least four times.
This team doesn’t have the sort of power that allows it the luxury of sitting back and waiting for three-run homers. Sometimes it needs to manufacture runs. I fear that a very talented and deep team will eventually be done in by the fact that it can’t do the little things with any sort of consistency.
Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Pirates were beaten again by the Chicago Cubs to preserve St. Louis’ 5 1/2 game lead in the National League Central Division Race. But the Wee Bears are sneaking back into the picture at 8.5 back. So it’s time for the Cardinals to get back to taking care of their own business.
After their hot start to the second half of the season, the Cardinals have lost five of nine games to teams that are under .500.