Overmatched!

The tale of the tape last night was written in the first inning. Both the top and the bottom halves of the inning began the same way – with the leadoff hitter reaching via walk. Our #2 hitter, w/ the platoon disadvantage, struck out by swinging at two pitches high and out of the strike zone. Their #2 hitter, also w/ a platoon disadvantage, hit the second pitch – a belt-high fastball – into the left-center field seats for a 2-0 lead. We never really got close to tying the game with or w/o Kelly Shoppach’s homer later. We did have a chance to put some runs on the board in the first after Pujols walked, moving Ryan to 2nd, and then Ludwick hit a long fly ball to right. When it fell into Shin Soo Choo’s glove, the inning was effectively over.

Cliff Lee dominated our feeble offense all night long. The only real question was not "Would the Cards be able to come back and win the game?" but rather "Would the Cards manage to break up Lee’s no-hitter?" We finally did when Molina’s fly ball to right fell into exactly the right spot – about 6 inches from Choo’s glove and 6 inches fair – but we never really threatened Lee after that 1st inning, 2 walk rally.

Lee’s 3 hit shutout took him all of 93 pitches – just over 10 per inning. 14 times Cards’ hitters swung at the first pitch last night. Rick Ankiel – overmatched all night – struck out 3 times. There’s no doubt that Lee had everything working all night. 70 of his 93 pitches were strikes but Cards’ hitters helped him out by swinging constantly. After the first inning – when Lee was struggling w/ his command – the Cards only had 8 PAs all night that lasted more than 3 pitches. Pujols had 3 of those 8. Skip Schumaker, our de facto leadoff hitter 47 times this season, saw 4 pitches TOTAL all night! Nick Stavihoha, he of the .611 OPS, saw 9 pitches TOTAL in 4 PAs. Of course, 5 of those came in Lee’s shaky first inning. After that, it was 4 pitches in 3 PAs. How he manages to garner any playing time at all is beyond me. He’s going to make a career off of 2 first inning singles!

Carp pitched pretty well himself, save the first inning walk, bad fastball to DeRosa, and spinning cutter he threw to Shoppach in the 5th. It’s unfortunate that he didn’t get to pitch against our hitters or he probably could’ve matched zeroes w/ Lee. Chris Perez had a nice 8th inning; 11 of his 15 pitches were for strikes and he managed to K 2 of the 3 batters he faced.

I have to agree w/ the sentiment expressed by AZ in the overflow thread he posted last night. (Thanks, AZ. I forgot to get one up!) This team is more than 1 hitter away from being a contender. It’s difficult for me to believe this team’s just half a game behind the Brewers. The team’s approach at the plate is horrendous. We’re going to need at least a healthy Glaus and a productive Ryan Ludwick in order to turn this team into a competitor. Skip’s going to have to start walking more frequently and, unfortunately, I don’t see what can be done w/ Ankiel or Duncan to make either a productive hitter. At least Ankiel has some power so we could stomach his .320 or so OBP as long as he manages to hit the occasional homer – if he was batting lower in the order. We’re just never going to score runs w/ 2 .320 OBP guys batting in front of Pujols.

I see no point in getting rid of any young player who has a chance to be a productive major leaguer in exchange for a rental like Beltre or DeRosa. We’re much further than a Beltre or DeRosa from being a contender. Moving Khalil Greene to 3B likely isn’t the answer either, though it’s probably worth a shot. We may as well explore every avenue available to us before we start shipping away Mitch Boggs, Brian Anderson, or Jon Jay.

Bill DeWitt says that the team is "in a pretty good position" and that trading for someone like Beltre, DeRosa, or Miguel Tejada (thank God!) isn’t very likely. Being a half game behind the Brewers is encouraging. The state of the offense right now just isn’t. It needs a lot of help – much more than 1 of those decent hitters can provide. In order to be competitive, we need more from Ludwick, Ankiel, and Skip and we need Glaus to return and be productive. That’s a lot of pieces that have to fall into place. If we’re able to get 3 of the 4, maybe then we can talk about the additional piece we need to acquire. But we can’t acquire 4 hitters and we’re not getting anywhere w/o some of those guys getting it together.

No game today. Hopefully the off day is all we need to get Ankiel’s power back, Ludwick fixed, and everyone else’s plate approach improved! The 1st place Tigers loom!

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