Slumping, or being at less than 100%, or just not quite playing well enough to win a game is sometimes presented oversimply, I think, as one highlight-friendly blunder or one particularly wretched batting average with runners in scoring position. Earlier today, at least, it felt more like this: The mistakes the Cardinals made, and the injured and near-injured players they missed, broke up opportunities to get out in front of the vagaries of baseball.
The vagaries, in this case, are a little like the blocks in the NEXT window in Tetris. They're going to keep coming down the chute until you screw up enough times in a row that the game is over and you've thrown your Game Boy Pocket across the room and one of the AAA batteries hops out and your mom gets pissed. Even if you play perfect Tetris you'll lose eventually, and if you're like me and make mistakes the last one, or the most visually awful one, that sets one of those useless sitting-down pieces on top of a misplaced square like a weird abstract monument, will at first seem to be the turning point. Really though it's just the vagary at the top of the pile.
The Cardinals are a good team, and they can deal with a lot of these—Daniel Descalso not being as good a shortstop as Rafael Furcal or Carlos Beltran not hitting can be erased by Yadier Molina, their astoundingly multi-talented defensive specialist, hitting a two-run homer. But Saturday morning's game was one of those quivering arm-wrestling stalemates in which one contestant, a little overmatched from the start, eventually just drops out, exhausted; they pushed through mistake after mistake, and got around the inevitable miscues with brute force and Molina-ness, but eventually the combined weight of all the random chance they weren't able to render irrelevant with one more timely hit crushed them.
The things that Don't Show Up In The Box Score don't show up in the box score because they're adequately measured, over a long-enough sample size, by the things that do. But over the course of an hour they can pile up. There's a big pile of comorbid problems at the center of every team's every individual loss, and while over a full season it's relatively easy to assign blame and track strengths it seems like an impossible, unpleasant goal to figure out what, specifically, has kept the Cardinals from losing each game we feel they should have won.
Or—if this is a moral failing, I don't think it's a MORAL+ failing. Good teams make all these mistakes, and the Cardinals—even in their Pythag-diminished state—have a record and postseason odds in keeping with their status as a good team.
For all that: Aside from the endless rain delay, and my eventually confirmed paranoia that the gods of baseball would again put Lance Lynn into the path of an oncoming bus, and the last, final push in the Brewers' direction, that was a fun baseball game to watch. But I'm glad the next one isn't this afternoon.