The St. Louis Cardinals dropped a heartbreaker to the Chicago Cubs on Friday. Chris Carpenter’s return and a late lead were both spoiled when the bullpen coughed up a game-tying home run in the 9th inning followed by a walk-off base hit in the 11th inning. The Cards’ four-game winning streak was snapped, and they failed to keep added pressure on the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers before their games even started.
It was a brutal loss. But it is far from the worst Cardinals performance of the 2012 season.
In fact, it wasn’t even the worst loss the Cardinals have endured at Wrigley Field this year. For some reason, the Cubs have absolutely owned the Cards when the two teams play in the Friendly Confines in 2012. The Cardinals are now just 2-5 on the season at Wrigley, and four of those Cubs wins have been of the walk-off variety. Maddening? Yes. Shocking? No, unfortunately, it is not.
Frankly, this type of loss has been the hallmark of the 2012 Cardinals. They have dropped a lot of games in their opponents’ final at bat this season. Plenty of arguments can be made about where the blame lies—ineffective bullpen, impotent offense, iffy managing. Maybe a combination of the three is the best answer. Fortunately, these inadequacies don’t surface in every close game. But they’ve shown up enough that we shouldn’t be surprised when the Cards lay the occasional egg at the end of a tight game. The real gut-punch is that this happened with a week and a half left in a season which finds the Cards being chased by a number of teams for their playoff spot.
Every loss this time of year is magnified by about a million, whether it’s a squeaker or a 10-0 drubbing. But finish off one or two of those previous Cubs walk-offs and Friday doesn’t have nearly as much dread attached to it for the Cardinals. They also got no help later Friday night, as the Brewers beat the Washington Nationals 4-2 and the Dodgers downed the Cincinnnati Reds 3-1 in extra innings. Regardless, a number of “heartbreakers” this year put the Cardinals in the position they’re in…not just the events of Friday.
The best thing they can do is get back up to take care of business in the remaining two games this weekend in Chicago, then do the same in Houston next week. A 10-game winning streak is probably a little much to ask from any team, much less these Cardinals. But winning 9 of 10 is in no way shameful, and could be enough to add a game or two to their Wild Card lead.
The bottom line is there’s no reason to get super worked up about Friday’s loss in Chicago, because it happens to this Cardinals team. A lot. They aren’t going to morph into some close game-winning juggernaut at this point in the season. And that may say something about their chances in the postseason—if they make it.