After falling to the Reds on Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals record dropped to 2-4. After going toe-to-toe with the Cubs, the Cards looked flat against Cincinnati. They were shut out twice, on Friday and Sunday, and Carlos Martinez was roughed up in his second outing.
The slow start reminded many of last year, when the Cardinals poor defense and shoddy pitching led to a sweep in Pittsburgh to begin the year. The first six games of 2017 reminded me of a different beginning to a season — 2011. In 2011, the Cardinals started 2-4, just like this year. Their offense was stagnant, and the bullpen struggled, another parallel to 2017.
On Opening Night 2017, the Cardinals carried a 3-0 lead into the 9th inning, only for Seung-Hwan Oh to give up a three run homer and the lead. Six years ago, the Cardinals lead 3-2 in the 9th before blowing the lead — this time it was Ryan Franklin. The only difference was that Randal Grichuk’s walk-off double won the game last Sunday, whereas the 2011 team lost in extra innings.
The Cardinals bullpen has allowed 13 runs, all earned, in only 17 1/3 innings pitched thus far. In two games the Cardinals have carried a lead into the late innings, the bullpen has surrendered a three run homer that either tied the game or gave the opposition the lead.
While the porous bullpen of 2011 didn’t rear it’s ugly head in the first homestand, it did on the first road trip. The team that would go on to win the World Series dropped to 2-6, courtesy of a pair of blown saves in San Francisco. Let’s hope this year’s ‘pen can turn it around faster than their 2011 counterparts, which ultimately needed the midseason trade of Colby Rasmus before they improved.
After six games, the offense is averaging 3.2 runs per game, but that’s really a misleading stat. If you exclude Saturday’s ten run outburst, the Cardinals are only averaging a paltry 1.5 runs per game. In 2011, the offense averaged 2.5 runs per game, and, like this year’s club, lost some games in which the starting pitching was very good.
Friday night was indicative of just that. On Friday, Mike Leake pitched 8 innings surrendering just a single run, but the offense was silenced by Amir Garret and the Reds’ bullpen. The Reds’ staff is far from elite: Garret was making his major league debut, and Michael Lorenzen has a career 4.55 ERA. After one turn through the rotation (plus one more start by Martinez), the Cardinals starter ERA was 2.70. Their record sits at 2-4 because the offense has been nonexistent.
Unlike the 2011 team, which featured Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman, the current Cardinals lack a proven middle of the order threat. There’s hope that Stephen Piscotty and Randal Grichuk can be that guy. Matt Carpenter has had some good years, but he’s nowhere near the hitter Pujols was in his prime.
The lack of offense in 2011 led to one of my favorite LaRussa press conferences of all time.
Hopefully, the 2017 club will turn it around as quickly as the 2011 version. Their margin for error is small, as the Cubs are a much better team in terms of talent. The Cardinals need to be hitting on all cylinders pretty much the whole season if they are to even compete with the Cubbies.
That means pitching, defense, and offense.
Thanks for reading!