The road has been bumpier than expected for the Cardinals so far this season, but the situation could be worse. The sky isn’t falling. There’s no reason to panic, just a few tweaks the Cards can do in May to get going in the right direction…
1- Get the offense going.
Duh. The Cardinals need to score more runs. Plain and simple. Nobody expects them to be anywhere near the record .330 batting average they had in 2013 with RISP, but the situational hitting must get better. When you’re a team that doesn’t hit a ton of home runs, you need to do the little things. Get ’em on, get ’em over, get ’em in!
It starts at the top with Matt Carpenter. He’s struck out a team-high 32 times in 125 at-bats. For reference, Carpenter only K’d 98 times in 626 ABs in 2013. He’s got to put the ball in play and make things happen. Carpenter has looked a lot better as of late with three multi-hit games in a row; he’ll be a huge factor in the Cards’ success in May.
Allen Craig is struggling. We know it, he knows it. Will it get better? History says yes. He’s a career .297 hitter. Craig has done nothing but hit every step along the way. That said, pitchers have figured him out now. He’ll have to make some adjustments, but more importantly he needs to take advantage when a pitcher makes a mistake over the plate. He’s fouling off hittable pitches. The offense will look much more imposing when Craig gets his bat going.
Others who need to step up, too: pretty much everyone other than Matt Adams and Yadier Molina. This offense is way too good to be struggling this much.
2- Execute fundamentals.
The Cardinals have 22 errors in 33 games. This team needs to be better in the field. Their fielding percentage plops them right around the middle of the pack in the NL. They should be way better than average defensively. Carpenter has already made six errors at third base. Jhonny Peralta has five errors at shortstop. The team needs to do the little things right. Hit cutoff men, back up bases and make the routine plays. When the offense is scuffling, executing the fundamentals will win or lose you games. Lock it up. No excuses.
3- Protect the house.
The defending National League champs have had a brutal schedule to start the year, playing only 12 of their first 38 games at Busch Stadium. After this current nine-game road trip, the Cardinals will return home for 19 of their next 22. Sometimes, all it takes is some good old home cooking to get things going.
4- Keep chucking it.
The Cardinals pitching staff has been great. As in, “third in the NL with a 3.03 ERA through the first 32 games” great. The Adam Wainwright-led rotation is phenomenal, and the back end of the bullpen is getting the job done. The staff will look even better when Joe Kelly comes back from hamstring injury.
All reports are that Jason Motte is progressing well and should be joining the team sometime this month, giving Mike Matheny another lights-out option to go to in the late innings. Adding to the bad streak of luck, Jaime Garcia suffered a setback when he took a shot to the left elbow, but he also has a chance to be back soon. Hopefully that happens. If so, this bullpen will soon be a force to be reckoned with when the final innings approach. The Cardinals’ pitchers just need to keep building off of their strong starts.
Stop pressing. Don’t try to do too much, and have some damn fun! The game is hard enough, no reason to make it harder by putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.
We all know how good this team should be. What better time to see it all come together than in May?