The St. Louis Cardinals finally eked out a win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night behind Matt Carpenter’s five-hit performance. The victory was just the third in the last ten games for the Redbirds and it could have easily gone the other way after less-than-stellar outing from Trevor Rosenthal.
From May 13th until May 25th, the Cardinals looked like they had finally turned a corner. After treading water for much of the first month and a half of 2014, the offense finally awoke from it’s slumber, the rotation and bullpen did their respective jobs, and the result was a 9-2 run.
Where did those guys go?
Since then, the Cardinals have been in a tailspin, losing seven of ten and seeing their deficit in the NL Central jump from 1.5 to 4 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers, who are now 10 games over .500 and have Kyle Lohse, at 7-1/ 2.66 looking like a Cy Young candidate again.
The bummer about this recent funk is that it seems like the Cardinals have someone different to blame after every loss. If they’re hitting, the starting pitching has been getting knocked around. If they have a dominant outing on the mound, the bats go silent. If both sides of the ball happen to click, the bullpen is getting penetrated.
Something has to change.
How long can we just sit here and hope things level out? Cards GM John Mozeliak made the first big step by promoting Oscar Taveras last week. It took way longer than it should have, despite Matt Adam’s batting average, but it’s obvious that Taveras can’t do it all on his own. While Oscar is contributing over his first five games, he’s not going to answer this team’s problems. The need for a second shut-down arm in the bullpen is becoming glaring. Pat Neshek, while serviceable, obviously wont carry a sub-1.00 ERA all season, and he imploded Tuesday night after Matheny (because he blindly follows lefty/righty matchups, but that’s another story) inserted him in the middle of the 8th inning in relief of Sam Freeman, who had induced two groundouts and two strikeouts in five batters to that point.
Mozeliak has become more and more vocal about his intentions for this team if things don’t get going soon. He has stated that he won’t make a move just for the sake of making one, but at the same time if there’s an opportunity to improve, he would be willing to listen.
Carlos Martinez needs to go to AAA and pitch in the rotation for a little while and get his head straight, a la Kolten Wong. It’s anyone’s guess when Joe Kelly might be back. Jaime Garcia is always a runny nose away from landing back on the disabled list. The Cardinals need another arm.
While it may take another month for the market to develop, the Cardinals should be buyers this season. A move in the fashion of the 2011 Colby Rasmus trade, one that brought an excellent fourth starter (Edwin Jackson) and a proven bullpen arm (Octavio Dotel) could be just the elixir that this team needs to shore up its struggling pitching staff and stabilize the entire roster.
While it is by no means time to worry with the Cardinals still just four back and this being early June, you’d still like to get a better showing out of this collection of talent that fell just two wins short of a World Championship last season. Last night’s extra inning victory was a step in the right direction, but we need to start seeing these Cardinals sink their teeth in to teams like the last-place Royals and not squeezing out one run victories in extra innings.