Early Struggles At The Plate Are Big Concern For Cardinals

From the first week of Spring Training, it was pretty clear the Cardinals’ offense was going to have to carry this team and win some high scoring games. Adam Wainwright went down, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook struggled, and Kyle Lohse was a huge question mark. The bullpen essentially lost two horses from last year’s stable: Kyle McClellan to the bullpen and Blake Hawksworth to the Dodgers via trade. Two of the team’s anchors on the pitching staff, Chris Carpenter and Ryan Franklin, are in their late 30s. Yet so far, the bats have come up noticeable short in the Cardinals’ 1-3 start to the 2011 campaign.

The problems begin with the person you’d least expect them. For a decade, he was a beast, but by the time you’re done reading this article, Albert Pujols may very well have hit into another double-play. I don’t think 2 for 16 with 1 RBI was the start Pujols was looking for to cash-in that $300 million dollar deal. Another few weeks of this production and Albert will be changing his tune on his “I don’t discuss contracts during the season” policy.

It’s hard to pinpoint why the rest of the team can’t put together some runs. It’s just one rally-killing at-bat after another for these guys. The club’s $107 million dollar payroll through 4 games has yet to put up a crooked number in any of its 37 innings, scoring just 11 runs in the process. The team hasn’t plated more than 3 runs in a game, and ironically the Cardinals’ only win came when they put up their least amount of runs (2). And much like last year, the Cardinals are getting shutdown by no-name pitchers. Be honest, who could name the 4th starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates before tonight’s shut-down performance? He’s about as anonymous as Mizzou’s new head basketball coach. Yet that starter, Charlie Morton, who went 2-12 last season with a 7.57 ERA, shut the Cardinals down.

One run. Three hits. 6 innings. Countless wasted opportunities.

The sky, of course, is not falling just yet. Matt Holliday is a big part of the offense and will be missed for likely another 5-10 days. But clouds are moving in, and the other guys need to pick it up. There’s no way a lineup featuring Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, and Colby Rasmus can’t get some big hits at home against the tail end of the Pirates’ rotation. Here’s hoping the Cardinals take advantage of James McDonald (who?) and get back on track before hitting the road for the first time in the young season.

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