On Sept. 19, the Cardinals held a seven-game lead with 15 to play in the National League Central race, which at the time wasn't — a race, that is. It was a walk to the postseason that began in April and hadn't slowed even though the team had twice experienced eight-game losing streaks without leaving first place. That may not be the greatest advertisement for your team but it says something about something.
But lately the Cardinals' many flaws finally seemed to coalesce into the kind of thing that gives managers heartburn, causing them to seemingly come apart at the seams. Having now lost eight out of the past ten going into Thursday night's game with the Brewers, the Cardinals have begun to bear a strong resemblance to the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies team managed by Gene Mauch. The Phils were 6 1/2 games up with 12 to play yet failed to win the pennant, a collapse that hung around poor Mauch's neck for the rest of a managerial career that lingered on for another 23 years. During that time seldom did a month go by when someone didn't mention it to poor Mauch with that "What the hell happened?'' kind of look in their eyes.
Not surprisingly, Cards' manager Tony LaRussa doesn't like the comparisons because he knows his fate if history repeats itself. But does it really matter? Are the Cardinals a post-season factor even if they do stagger to the finish line first in a division where the Astros are suddenly on their heels? Frankly, not really.
This is not the Gashouse Gang that once was the pride of St. Louis.
This is the Gassed Out Gang. The Cards have a bullpen that seems to come into games carrying a gas can as basic equipment. Their lineup has at least three of its key players hurting. The starting staff is too old in too many places because, let's face it, as good as Chris Carpenter is—and he may be good enough to rightfully win the Cy Young Award—the rest of the guys around him these days are pitching like they deserve the Sigh Young Award.
The Cardinals' magic number was at five for so long some of their fans thought it was 55. Worse, they're losing in agonizing fashion. They lost five of their last ten games by one run and lost four games on their final road trip on the final pitch of the game. Could it be worse than that? Not hardly.
HBT: Robinson Cano homered twice while David Phelps had the longest outing of his career as the Yankees topped the Blue Jays 7-2 this afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
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