But When They Are Bad, They Are Horrid

“We just do not do the little things that are conducive to being a good ball club,” Mike Shannon said last night, after watching yet another failed bunt attempt, this time Adam Wainwright bunting foul for strike three. Clearly, the runners could not advance — a problem all night, it seemed.

Chance after chance, the Cardinals had in game two against the Padres. And time after time, they came up empty.

Sure, they scored four runs. But they couldn’t get much else together.

The Good

Adam Wainwright.

After two disastrous starts, Waino looked just like himself through the first few innings. In fact, he had a no-hitter going through four innings. He looked sharp early, picking up six strikeouts in six innings.

However, he walked four and gave up two earned runs. That was only the start of the unfortunate turnaround later in the game.

Also good, Trevor Rosenthal. The kid continues to impress, coming in to the seventh inning and facing Jesus Guzman (strikeout), Everth Cabrera (single), Will Venable (strikeout), and Chase Headley (strikeout). Two of those Ks were of the “caught looking” variety.

Rosenthal is, perhaps, the only guy on the staff right now that seems to have no fear of going right after hitters. None of this nibbling the corners, trying to get hitters to swing at garbage. Nah, he just takes it to ’em. He makes the best of that 97 MPH fastball, followed often by a 79 MPH curveball.

Color me impressed.

The Bad

RISP. RISP. RISP.

It’s baaaack! The ghost of not-hitting-with-RISP has returned, and at a time when every single win is critical.

Last night, 13 runners were stranded. And the Cardinals were 1-14 with runners in scoring position.

1-for-14.

All night, it went like this:

Second inning: single, single, walk, force out at 3rd – run scores, GIDP.

Third inning: fly out, reached on an error, fly out, walk, walk, run scores on a fielding error, ground out.

Sixth inning: walk, single, strike-out-bunting (seriously? Can no one on this team get a bunt down anymore?), single – run scores, pop out, fly out.

Eighth inning: reached on an error, strikeout, walk, soft ground out, soft ground out.

The heart of the lineup was 3-for-12. The highlight was a David Freese home run that  narrowed the deficit to one. But even with chances there after, no one could get it done.

The Ugly

If defense wins championships, we may have a problem.

The fourth inning came completely unraveled and, unfortunately, cost Adam Wainwright the superb start he’d had going.

Here’s how Jenifer Langosch described the chaos.

Adam Wainwright was twirling a no-hitter and had a two-run lead with one out in the fourth before an error by shortstop Pete Kozma — filling in for the injured Furcal — allowed Will Venable to reach and brought Chase Headley to the plate. Headley hit a chopper that tipped off the glove of second baseman Skip Schumaker for an infield single, and a Yasmani Grandal grounder then did the same to David Freese at third, also scored an infield single.

[cut]

A walk, a Logan Forsythe double and Alexi Amarista triple later, and the Cardinals’ two-run lead had evaporated — and with it St. Louis’ chances of earning a series win in San Diego.

Now, we can all point to Pete Kozma and blame him. “If only Rafael Furcal was healthy,” we’ll say. Then there’s Schumaker. He’s not a real second baseman anyway, right? The inning should never have gotten to Freese for the second infield single, much less Waino for the walk, double, and triple.

No, it shouldn’t have. The mistakes were ugly and costly. Wainwright was charged with five runs, only two earned. Still, he had every opportunity to keep making pitches and get out of the jam like he’s done so many times before.

The mistakes were brutal and unfortunate. But in a team game, it’s hard to justify singling out one guy.

Everyone had chances. Everyone missed them.

The Redbirds are just 4-10 in the last 14 games, and their lead over the Dodgers (who they play starting Thursday) for the second wildcard spot is down to one. The Pirates are 2.5 behind, and the Brewers are creeping back into the race, sitting 4.0 games back.

The Cardinals know first hand how a run can get started late in the season. They better find one soon … like, starting today … if they are to keep their playoff hopes going strong.

Tara is a St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball and a contributor to Around the Horn. Follow her on Twitter @tarawellman.

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