Really not a lot to say about yesterday. Kip Wells danced around trouble for a while, but if you run through the raindrops long enough, you are going to get wet. Albert (it sounded like, since I listened to the game via XM) had a number of balls hit to the wall. A completely healthy Pujols might have had another three home run game instead of two sac flies and an out. The team continued to battle, even if they did fall short once again.
So it’s seven in a row at the worst possible time (and they are on a nine game road skid). But things could be worse. Here are seven reasons this streak isn’t the end of the world.
1) This means that, odds are, the Cardinals will do well this weekend. If they got swept, they’d be on an 11-game streak and that doesn’t happen in baseball all that often. Granted the fact that they are fielding half of a AAA lineup and rotation may skew things a little, but in the way of baseball, long streaks are often followed up with some good wins. I’d say that, in the flow of a baseball season, this means at least a split this weekend.
2) It’s not like we are watching Baltimore. Counting their record-setting game against the Rangers, they are 4-18 with scores of 30-3, 11-3, 15-8, 10-0 in a no-hitter, 17-2 and 18-6. At least, for the most part, the Cards are staying in games. All three of the games in Arizona and yesterday’s game as well were winnable games. If they pull off even half of those games, perhaps they are still in the race. It’s always better to see the team competing than getting blasted every night. We’ve seen enough of those the last couple of years.
3) It should have nailed the coffin closed. Sure, a sweep this weekend would get them back in the race, but does anyone really think this team can do that? I think it’s helped even the “blinded by the red” fans to start getting ready for the offseason and an October that won’t be red for the first time since 2003.
4) It’s helping sort out some things for next year. The chances of Kip Wells staying around, at least as a rotation guy, are getting less and less, especially if TLR stays. (BTW, I find it interesting that Duncan has a contract for next year and TLR doesn’t. Could they actually get split up and Duncan stay to work with a new manager? I’d be surprised, but who knows?) Rick Ankiel is finding out what kind of adjustments he is going to have to make to stay in the majors. People like Brenden Ryan and Ryan Ludwick are getting valuable playing time to help them be even better next year, hopefully. And Anthony Reyes is getting a chance to pitch for ’08, whether it’s in St. Louis or somewhere else.
5) It’s a reminder of last year. The Cards had two 8-game losing streaks last year, one a very memorable September swoon, and a 7-game skid. And anything that reminds us of 2006 can’t be all bad, can it?
6) It’s taken the anxiety out of watching games. When there is a lot on the line, I have trouble even watching the game. You don’t know how many times I flipped the channels from the game to something else in 2004 and 2006 (and, to be honest, in 2003 when the Cubs looked poised to go to the Series–until I flip back and see the Bartman replays. Great memories…..) When you divest yourself of an emotional attachment to the team, it’s a lot easier to take the losses. I was much more worked up about the first loss of the streak (which, it’s hard to believe now, would have put the Cards in first if it had gone the other way) than yesterday’s game against the Reds. Though, of course, losing any games to the Cubs while they are in the race will be agonizing.
7) Management has no delusions of what kind of team they have. Last year’s Series win helped people believe that the team was much closer to the dominant force of April and May than the team that couldn’t play .500 from June on. I was one of those people, and to be fair, the hypothesis didn’t get a whole lot of testing, with injury, death, off-field stuff, etc. turning this season into a fun-house reflection of what it should have been. While I’m not sure if there’s much in the off-season people can do to change the roster up for next year, it will be harder to believe that there is a first-rate team there, especially with Carpenter out for the entire year. Some of the same theories can be espoused, being that you can figure the team will be healthier next year, Mulder’s back for the whole year, etc., but there are still some holes that need to be filled. Unless you are hording for Johan Santana, then that’s a different story.
So, while a seven game slide isn’t the best thing to ever happen, it’s not the end of the world. Hopefully it stops tonight, though Carlos Zambrano has always been a tough matchup for the Cardinals. The Cards do get to send their One True Starter out there, though, so at least Wainwright should make it competitive. The Cards actually have their rotation set up the way they’d want it, with Wainwright, Looper, Pineiro and Mulder going. Pineiro hopefully can bounce back from Monday’s debacle against the Cubs and maybe Mulder can exploit their weakness against lefties.
It’s Cards-Cubs this weekend, though. Do you need anything more?