Oh, so this is the Cardinals team most of the rest of the sports world expected to see: rotten starting pitching, anemic offense and Little-league caliber defense. After an 11-1 spanking of the equally rotten San Francisco Giants, the Cards spit up two ugly losses in a row, dropping out of first place in the now-quality NL Central and heading to Milwaukee and Pittsburgh for two games each against division foes.
My last post talked about bouncing back after a tough loss. Now the Cardinals have had two tough losses in a row at home. Sometimes getting on the road can be good for a ballclub. Getting away from home, distractions, bonding as a unit, all these things can benefit a winning team.
But who exactly are these guys? Are they the team that started 12-5, or are they the team that lost ugly the past two days? Yes, it's still early in a long season, but by the time we get to August and September, the standings can make a fan ache for the one that got away back in April and May. And since the Cardinals obviously do have some holes in their roster and some serious questions about long-term endurance this season, nothing other than a 3-1 road trip is going to allay those nagging doubts that the team brought about this weekend.
There is hope on the horizon, of course. Mark Mulder pitched six shutout innings in a rehab start, and Chris Carpenter is scheduled to throw BP soon. They could take starting spots in the rotation from whoever is struggling, be it Looper—who, let's face it, was overdue for an ass-kicking like yesterday's—Piñero or Wellemeyer. Don't overlook GM John Mozeliak's ability to trade for a big bat or infield help, either. The biggest difference between this year and last year is that we actually have options for change.
Two losses won't ruin the season, that's for sure. But the team looked tired and listless, and that's a bad sign. Let's hope Tony can push the right buttons tonight up in Cheesehead Land.