Monday marks only the second day off for the St. Louis Cardinals since May 10 and their first at home. By any and all measures, they surely could use a bit of a breather.
The last 30 days offered an opportunity to measure the Cardinals against the rest of the league, as their 20-11 start through May 9 had included just four games against clubs outside the National League Central Division.
The Cards flunked the test. They were swept in three series while going 10-19 (.345) overall in the last 30 days. St. Louis logged a losing record both at home (6-7) and especially on the road, with defeats in 75 percent of the away contests (4-12).
Injuries were a major factor as six Cardinals went onto the disabled list during the period, including Jon Jay, Kyle McClellan, Lance Berkman, Matt Carpenter, Skip Schumaker and the latest, Jaime Garcia. Among the active, Matt Holliday is dodging back spasms, Allen Craig is limping and Carlos Beltran’s knees are better some days than others.
While one might like to hope the club could tread water by playing .500 ball until their injured players could return, it hasn’t happened.
The offense stopped scoring runs in double-digit batches, the normally-dependable defense showed surprising leaks and the pitching staff, which had been one of the league’s best, took on water. St. Louis hitters still rank first in the NL in batting average and runs scored, but the bullpen ERA is 12th of 16 NL clubs as the starters haven’t been pitching as deeply into games.
The bottom line is that the club fell from holding a 3.5 game lead that was built up during the season’s initial three weeks down to their current National League Central deficit of two games. The Cards are now in third place behind co-leaders Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
Here is a short recap of the last 30 days by series with a focus on the pitching.
May 11-13 vs. Atlanta: 0-3 record. The Cards and McClellan dropped the opener in especially disappointing manner in 12 innings. The normally-reliable pair of Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn lost the final two as the home team was outscored 14-6.
May 14-15 vs. Chicago: 1-1. St. Louis could only manage a home split against the reeling Cubs as they were outscored 12-11 in the two-game set. Jason Motte and Fernando Salas took the losses out of the bullpen.
May 18-20 at Los Angeles: 0-3. The team with the best record in the NL was the better club as the Dodgers outscored the Cards 18-10. Still, St. Louis could have won two of the three had it not been for bullpen losses from Salas and Marc Rzepczynski.
May 21-23 vs. San Diego: 3-0. Against one of the weakest offenses in baseball, the Cards allowed just six runs in the series. Motte, Wainwright and Lynn picked up the wins. Unfortunately, the Cards can’t play the Padres every night.
May 24-27 vs. Philadelphia: 1-3. Despite the Phillies’ lack of success this season, they took three of four at Busch and knocked the Cards out of first place. The first two contests were another pair of bullpen losses (Salas and Motte).
May 28-30 at Atlanta: 1-2. Lynn took game one, but the pitching stumbled again as the staff gave up 15 runs in the game two and three defeats. Struggling Jake Westbrook and Rzepczynski took the losses.
June 1-4 at New York: 1-3. Johan Santana’s game one no-hitter set the stage as the no-name Mets dominated the series. The Cards went 26 innings without scoring and plated just one run in the first three games before eking out a 5-4 win in the finale.
June 5-7 at Houston: 2-1. The two clubs split one-run wins before the Cardinals finally had a laugher, a 14-2 spanking to close out the series and the 4-6 road trip.
June 8-10 vs. Cleveland: 1-2. Their first series of interleague play was not kind to St. Louis. The visiting Tribe won the set despite all three of their starters having come in with ERAs over five. Joe Kelly made his MLB debut, tossing five one-run innings on Sunday. Motte allowed a three-run home run in the ninth to lose the rubber match.