Alarm bells are officially ringing for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals’ last off day before Monday was May 20th. A lot can change in 17 games. On May 20th, they enjoyed a three-game lead in the Central Division. They looked to be the team to beat at seven games over .500. Since then, the Cardinals have stacked losses, going 6-11. The Cardinals entered Monday’s off-day in third place, two and a half games back of both the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers. They return to play Tuesday just two games over .500 after dropping four of their last five series. St. Louis has lost five in a row and six of their previous seven.
Cardinals Losses and Injuries
It’s pretty easy to attribute many of the team’s problems to injuries, particularly in the rotation. The Cardinals entered the season with injuries to Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, and Kwang Hyun Kim. Hudson, who underwent Tommy John surgery last September, was never in the club’s plans for the season, but Mikolas and Kim were shoe-ins for the rotation. Mikolas has pitched four innings and is currently resting a forearm strain. Kim returned to the rotation on April 17th, and the team managed a win in each of his first five starts, even though he only earned a decision in one of them. Since then, he’s lost four consecutive starts and has landed back on the IL with a lower back strain. Jack Flaherty also hit the IL with an oblique strain, and his timetable to return is still unknown.
The Cardinals have lost Jordan Hicks from the bullpen outside of the rotation and have seen Harrison Bader and Paul DeJong miss significant time from the starting lineup. Brief absences from Tyler O’Neill, Yadier Molina, and others impacted the lineup at various times this season. Molina remains out of the starting lineup after taking a foul ball to the knee last Friday. The Cardinals have rarely fielded the most potent combination of its players this season, but the games go on whether a team’s best talent is available or not.
Without looking at any stats, even casual observers can see that this team leaves many runners on base and often fails to move runners along the base paths. The team has a batting average of .229 with runners in scoring position, which is good for 25th in the majors. On average, they strand 3.4 runners in scoring position per game while stranding 6.5 total baserunners per game. Those aren’t abysmal stats, but the Cardinals are in the bottom half of the league for both categories. It’s no surprise that the Cardinals are 18th in the league in total runs scored as well, averaging 4.23 runs per game. It all comes down to a team that should be scoring more and must start doing so.
Season’s Not Over
The Cardinals losses are some cause for concern. The team currently has a winning record, a ton of talent, and reasons for optimism. They are likely to get healthier soon. Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt still handle the corners. Dylan Carlson and Tommy Edman are ascending stars. Adam Wainwright and Molina haven’t emptied their tanks just yet. The bullpen has excellent arms that should be excellent at holding leads if given a chance and a bit of rest. The Cardinals will likely pull the trigger on a trade before the deadline. Names like Max Scherzer and Matthew Boyd are already out there. Perhaps nothing will come of the speculation, but a deal or two for someone seems likely.
Sure, the Cincinnati Reds looked like the better team during their four-game sweep at Busch Stadium last weekend. The clichés all still apply, though. It’s a long season; there’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and beware of small sample sizes. The team remains in the hunt, but they have to end the slide.
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