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Friday, April 18, 2008

Strength Turned Weakness

Strength Turned Weakness

By Cardinal 70

I was listening to the game on my XM Radio (not really product placement for our new advertiser, just the truth) and with the Cards having a 3-0 lead into the eighth, I really thought the sweep was in hand. The Cards had missed some opportunities, sure, but the pitching was rolling and the Cards hadn't blown this big of a lead yet this season.

However, as I've said before, last year's strength is looking like this year's weakness. Last year, if you could get it to the bullpen with a lead (something that was pretty problematical) they'd lock it down. This year, save for Kyle McClellan, there's not many you'd trust not to fan the flames.

You can't really fault the starter for this one. Not only did Kyle Lohse pitch seven scoreless innings before faltering in the eighth, he drove in a couple of runs with a single. Ryan Franklin put the tying run on base by hitting Rickie Weeks, which could have been the turning point of the inning. After a bunt, Randy Flores came in and got a decent result--a popup of Fielder--but it dropped and the tying run scored.

McClellan came in and kept the game tied, but Brad Thompson, in his first relief outing since leaving the rotation, allowed the two run bomb to Fielder that was the difference in the ball game.

So there are plenty of pitchers to put the Goat tag on, but with the lack of offense, I think the tag would have to go on Rick Ankiel, unfortunately. Three strikeouts and not doing anything with the baserunners that were on almost every time really comes back to haunt a team in an extra-inning loss.

The Hero has to be Ryan Ludwick. His fourth home run, a 4 for 5 day, means the offensive woes can't be traced to him. Lohse and McClellan would come close in this category as well.

Unfortunately for the Cards, this was a game they really needed to win with the Giants coming to town. Not that the Giants themselves are that big of a deal, but Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum go in the first two games of the series. So far the Cardinals have not lost back-to-back games, but if they aren't careful, they could have a three-game losing streak going into Sunday.

Cain took a no-hitter into the seventh last weekend when he faced the Cardinals. While that likely won't happen again, the Cardinals are going to have to do a better job of cashing in on opportunities if they plan to steal one against him. He'll face Todd Wellemeyer in a rematch of last Saturday's game. Hopefully Tony will keep a close eye on Wellemeyer, who has struggled in his last inning in his starts lately. He'll have to limit the damage to stay in the game.

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