The Cardinals' opening road trip was a success even if it doesn't feel like it

Missed opportunities are galling. Right, Peter Bourjos? - Justin K. Aller

Going 3-3 during a six-game trek through Cincinnati and Pittsburgh isn't a bad thing.

At the end of last season, the National League Central standings were:

Place

Team

W

L

GB

PCT

RS

RA

Run Diff

1

St. Louis Cardinals

97

65

-

.599

783

596

+187

2

Pittsburgh Pirates

94

68

3

.580

634

577

+57

3

Cincinnati Reds

90

72

7

.556

698

589

+109

4

Milwaukee Brewers

74

88

23

.457

640

687

-47

5

Chicago Cubs

66

96

31

.407

602

689

-87

Thus, when the 2014 MLB schedule was announced, the Cardinals' opening series stuck out. The Redbirds would start the season by traveling to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, their chief competitors a season ago for the division crown. While the Reds and Pirates' offseasons were of note more for the players who left than the ones the clubs added, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati nonetheless figure to finish in the top three of the Central standings again this year. So, the Redbirds would open the year by traveling to the home parks of their chief competitors.

Last year, the Reds and Pirates were tough at home:

  • Cincinnati went 49-31 at the Great American Ball Park, which is good for a .613 winning percentage.
  • The Pirates finished last season 50-31 at PNC Park, which equals a .617 winning percentage.

During the Cardinals' travels last season, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh were not particularly accommodating:

  • The Cardinals went 5-5 against the Reds in Cincinnati.
  • In Pittsburgh, El Birdos managed just a 3-7 record during the regular season.

These results led me to define down my expectations for the Redbirds' opening six-game road trip into enemy territory. On opening day, I'd hoped for a .500 split. After all, the Cards went 8-12 (.400) combined at Cincy and Pitt in 2013. I told myself that it would be a good result for the Cardinals to win one of the series, lose the other, and return to St. Louis for the home opener with a .500 record.

Yet here I am this Monday morning disappointed. It's a feeling fueled by the St. Louis bats' failure to support excellent outings by a Cardinals starter—once in Cincinnati and yesterday in Pittsburgh.

1) Michael Wacha's 2014 debut was an impressive one last Wednesday vs. the Reds. Over 6 2/3 scoreless innings, the reigning NLCS MVP allowed three hits, struck out seven, and walked only one. But the St. Louis batters managed just three hits and three walks against Cingrani and the Cincy pen. The Cards lost 1-0 on a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth.

2) Sunday's game against Pittsburgh was perhaps even more frustrating. Adam Wainwright threw seven innings, notched seven Ks, and allowed two runs. The Cardinals offense managed to scratch out just one run against Edinson Volquez (who hasn't posted an ERA under 4.14 since 2008) over 5 2/3 innings before being held hitless by the Pirates relievers.

These games feel like squandered opportunities. In each contest, a win was there for the taking with some hitting, any hitting. And so this morning I'm unable to fully appreciate the overall positive that was the Cards' opening road trip. I'm lamenting what might've been.

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