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before the road trip began i noted that the cards would face 4 lefties in 6 games, a difficult task for them: "since july 1 the cards have faced left-handed starting pitchers 16 times (including last night) and gone 8-8 despite scoring just 51 runs total --- 3.2 a game." the sad update to those stats: 8-12 record, 62 runs (3.1 per game). that injury to brian barton may have been more costly than anyone realized: he’s one of only 5 position players on the team with an ops of .750 or better vs lhp this season --- and one of the 5 is felipe lopez, who only has taken about 25 plate appearances vs southpaws since joining the cards. the others (if you’re wondering) are pujols, luddy, and molina.

since august 1 the cards have a losing record (14-15) despite being +23 in run differential. for some perspective, they were only +28 through july 31 (the first 111 games), yet they were 11 games over .500 . . . . . in other words, they were pretty damn lucky through the first 4 months, pretty damn unlucky in month #5. it all comes out in the wash: at the moment their pythagorean record trues up perfectly with their actual record, 75-65.

after the cubs acquired harden and the brewers added sabathia, it was argued the cards needed a splashy acquisition to keep pace. the trade deadline passed and nothing happened, but wellemeyer got healthy and carp / wainwright returned (sequentially) to the starting staff. since then the cards have lost 5 games in the standings to both the cubs and brewers, but you can’t blame the starters. here’s how the rotations stack up since july 31:

ERA IP H BB SO HR
brewers 2.75 202.2 175 48 150 20
cardinals 3.39 178 165 43 115 25
cubs 3.97 186 176 68 162 20

stl’s starters have outpitched the cubs despite the addition of harden, and while they haven’t been dominant like the sabathia-led brewer rotation, they’re clearly not the reason the cards have tumbled so badly in the standings. can’t really blame the offense either:

R/G AVG OBP SLG
cubs 5.5 .284 .363 .455
brewers 5.3 .267 .342 .446
cards 5.0 .298 .355 .461

the cards’ run output is pretty low, relative to their inputs --- they should be right up there with the cubs --- but 5 runs a game is still plenty. we can’t even really blame the bullpen, which before yesterday had gone a month without blowing a late lead. indeed, no part of the team has played poorly over the last month. they just keep finding ways to come up short. of their 15 losses since the trade deadline, only 1 has been a blowout (ie, by a margin of 5 runs or more) --- the 12-0 drubbing by the brewers. 6, including yesterday’s, have been by 1 run; they have no 1-run victories during that stretch. i have no explanation to offer for this because i think nothing explains it; it’s just one of those things. the 2006 cardinals went through a very similar stretch in september when they let the astros back into the race, repeatedly losing close games; in october, the ball bounced their way and they won the same cliffhangers.

the other similarity to 2006 is the astros ---- now as then, they’re closing fast, to within a game of the cards. houston has compiled the long winning streak (8 and counting) that the cardinals needed. are the astros still in it? not quite, even though 16 of their final 22 games are against sub-.500 teams (pitt, cin, atl, colo). like the cardinals (who face tougher opposition) they’ll need to close with a 16-6 rush or something like that to even have a chance, and since they have no games left with milwaukee they’ll need a lot of help . . . . sound familiar? too little, too late for them.

i could care less if they pass the cardinals. 3d place, 4th place . . . . does it really make a difference?

items:

  • palm beach mimicked the parent club in their playoff opener last night, blowing a 5-run 8th-inning lead to lose to daytona, 10-9. all of the comeback runs were unearned, thanks to back-to-back errors by brian cartie and pete kozma . . . .
  • danup’s formula to create albert pujols: take five months’ worth of david wright, then pile on 5 weeks of a .500 batting average. ht, BTF.
  • if albert maintains his .360 average, he’ll finish with the 19th-highest BA in franchise history. if he can add 5 points (don’t put it past him) he’ll move up to 15th.
  • troy glaus needs two more homers to become the 4th guy on the team to reach 25 hr this year. name the last quartet of cardinals to do that in a single season (no peeking at B-R).