I’m glad for the St. Louis Cardinals to get a win any way they can.
But their Tuesday night victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, their third win in a row, did little to make me feel warm and fuzzy about the prospects of them being over a recent skid that included losing four of six to the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates and three of four to the last-place Cincinnati Reds.
The Redbirds stormed out to a 5-0 lead, easing my mind about their offensive struggles for a while. But one bad inning from starting pitcher Jaime Garcia turned an exceptional start into a not so hot turn and St. Louis spent the second half of the game desperately hanging on to a 5-4 lead.
The closeness of a game that seemed for a while that it would become a laugher highlighted several worrisome facts: The Cardinals had three innings where the leadoff hitter collected an extra-base hit -- two doubles and triple -- and none of them were able to score. Not coincidentally, the middle of the batting order took the game off and St. Louis racked up eight strikeouts while going 0-for 11 with runners in scoring position.
If not for a ridiculously good performance from rookie Tommy Pham and a nice night from hot and cold leadoff man Matt Carpenter, the Cardinals would have been on the wrong end of the score.
While Pham and Carpenter combined to go six-for-eight at the plate with three homers, a triple, two doubles and five RBIs between them, the two through five hitters in the St. Louis batting order combined to go hitless in 17 at-bats with seven strikeouts and 14 runners stranded on base.
Catcher Yadier Molina seemed particularly helpless. He was 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. His bat looked terribly slow to the point that I started to think if he’s not extremely worn out that he must be injured.
I’m not sure why, with two back up catchers on the roster and Matt Holliday, Randal Grichuk and Greg Garcia capable of pinch hitting why manager Mike Matheny left Molina in the game late with a chance to score and pad a one-run lead. Instead, Molina waved weakly at pitches and struck out.
On the bright side, with the exception of his one bad inning, Jaime Garcia looked must sharper than he did in his previous outing.
Garcia allowed eight hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings. But as Pham pointed out in the post-game show, several of the hits were bloopers that just found an open spot on the field in which to land. He only gave up a couple of hard-hit balls, one being a mistake that he left up in the strike zone which was hammered for a three-run homer. Garcia, who couldn’t find his control in his last start, walked only one while striking out four.
While the margin of victory in the first two games of the Milwaukee series has been uncomfortably thin, the Redbirds need to find a way to sweep this set today and head to Chicago with as much momentum as possible.