(BaseballStL) -- Fans sometimes construct alternate realities in which a ball bounces differently, a call goes the other way, a great play is or is not made and the whole scenario changes to the Cards’ benefit.
But the derailment of the St. Louis Cardinals World Series express in Pittsburgh was not a fluke or an aberration. Good teams deal in reality and the reality is that the Pittsburgh Pirates really are that good and the Cardinals can look very mediocre at the worst possible time.
The season didn’t end at PNC Park and the Redbirds are just 1½ games out with a lot more baseball to play. Once they return home on Monday, 32 of the last 52 games are at Busch where the Cards are 32-17. Perhaps more importantly, they do not play a team with a winning record after Sept. 8. Current Standings
But there are dark clouds on the horizon because it doesn’t get any easier for the next 6 weeks.
Since they beat the Cincinnati Reds on June 3, the Cards are just 2-13 against teams with winning records going into Friday’s game with the Cincinnati Reds. Over the next month or so, they play 27 games against teams with winning records and just 9 against those who do not. The gravy train of Miami, Houston, the Mets and the Padres is over.
After Friday’s game against the Reds, the Cardinals have 9 games against them (including a monster 4 game series at Cincinnati in September) and 9 more against the Pirates (against whom the Cards are just 3-7 this year). Mix in 4 against the streaking Dodgers and 4 more against the Atlanta Braves and the difficulty of the schedule balances the home field advantage the Cards will enjoy in the bulk of those contests.
What has been more troubling is the inability of the Cardinals to generate consistent offense against quality teams.
In the past 30 days during which the Cards have played .500 baseball, David Freese is hitting just .226, Daniel Descalso .231 and Matt Adams .246. Matt Carpenter, who was seemingly invincible in the first half faded as well, hitting just .269 in that period. Offensive Leaders
Yadier Molina, who has been worked like a borrowed mule by manager Mike Matheny, hit only .254 in the last month, about 100 points less than when he led the National League in hitting.
During the past week, it was more evident as the Cardinals averaged less than 2 runs a game until Thursday night’s explosion. How ugly was it? Pete Kozma and Freese each hit just .167 the last 7 days, and hit better than Descalso (.111) Allen Craig (.107) Matt Adams (.077) and Matt Carpenter (.074).
All teams go through slumps and periods of bad luck but it would be naive to assume the worst is over for the 2013 club.
They will play better, for the most part, than they did this past week. But with Yadi and Robinson on the DL, a suddenly anemic offense, and a tough stretch of games, better budget for some stormy weather.