The St. Louis Cardinals knew they had an old team heading into the 2012 season, and injuries or players wearing down in the course of the regular season were the team’s most likely downfall. The Cardinals have sustained injuries throughout the season, but now fatigue is doing its best to take down the team
Shortstop Rafeal Furcal tore a ligament in his right elbow Aug. 30 in Washington after dealing with back problems for weeks, outfielder Matt Holliday was sidelined much of the last week with a sore back and outfielder Carlos Beltran has flat out stopped hitting.
Beltran had been among the league leaders in homeruns and RBIs for much of the season, but he has hit .165 in the last month with two homeruns and eight RBIs. He is now fifth in the National League with 28 homeruns, 10 behind leader Ryan Braun, and eighth in RBIs with 86.
Maybe Beltran’s knee is causing him more serious issues than he lets on, but either way the Cardinals have lost a very important bat in the middle of their lineup. With Beltran’s slump, Holliday’s back problems and Berkman trying to come back from a stay on the disabled list, the Cardinals no longer have a scary heart of the order.
Unfortunately, these issues couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Cardinals were able to survive early season injuries to Berkman, Allen Craig, Skip Schumaker and Matt Carpenter without losing too much ground in the standings.
That likely won’t be possible now. The Cincinnati Reds are running away with the National League Central Division and could be headed to 100 wins. The Cardinals still hold the second wild-card spot, but the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates remain well within striking distance. Both teams were 1.5 games behind the Cardinals heading into play Saturday.
Manager Mike Matheny could be an easy target for a team that is wearing out near the end of the season, but there isn’t much he could do about these issues. He made sure starters got days off often at the beginning of the season, and he actually received criticism for not playing his best lineup often enough. The problem is the team just wasn’t built with much room for injuries and fatigue.
The Cardinals Opening Day lineup featured six players who are now 30 years or older. A team that old has to receive a fair amount of luck to make it through an entire season without dealing with many injury problems.
The Cardinals certainly haven’t received much luck in that department, but it also shouldn’t surprise everyone when the offense struggles. Sure, a team that leads the league in hitting shouldn’t go four straight games without scoring an earned run, as the Cardinals did Aug. 28-31 against the Pirates and Nationals, but it would also be unrealistic to think the offense would continue to churn out five or more runs a game nearly every night.
Despite the recent struggles, life is still pretty good for the Cardinals. They entered play Saturday in the second wild-card spot and 4.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the top wild-card position.
Plus, the upcoming schedule is favorable. The Cardinals have just four of their next 18 games against teams with a winning record, although all but five of those games are on the road. Still, this upcoming stretch might give the Cardinals a chance to get well for a final push toward the playoffs. They are going to need it.