The hot start that the St. Louis Cardinals got off to is looking more and more like they beat up on a weak front-loaded schedule.
After the Braves beat up the Cardinals for a three-game sweep, they sent the Redbirds into a tail-spin they have yet to snap completely out of. Since that time, the Cardinals have gone 6-8 and suffered another sweep at the hands of the Dodgers.
As the Braves and Cardinals get set to square off again in Atlanta, here are the keys for the Cardinals to reverse their fortunes against Michael Bourn and the since downtrodden Braves.
If the Cardinals are going to have any chance of success in this next round against the Braves, the starting pitching must improve. Not once during the last series did the starting pitching make it into the seventh inning. Lance Lynn was the only one to make it through six, and it took him 121 pitches to get there.
The pitching was a strong point for the Cardinals at the start the season. For them to make a serious run at the postseason, it will have to be a strong point again.
The Braves have been struggling of late, losing eight of their last nine games. Lance Lynn, the Cardinals' ace thus far, has the opportunity to get things started off right in Turner Field on Monday afternoon.
As bad as the starting pitching was in the first Atlanta series, the bullpen was worse. During the three-game set, the bullpen pitched 14 innings and gave up 10 earned runs for a musty 6.43 ERA.
Since the last Atlanta series, reliever Kyle McClellan has hit the DL and JC Romero has been released. That leaves the Cardinals with only one lefty in the bullpen—Marc Rzepczynski—to face power hitting lefties Jason Hayward and Brian McCann if the situation dictates in the later innings.
Jason Motte didn't get a chance to pitch in the series against Atlanta, but he has only one pitch and if he doesn't locate his fastball, the possible save situations in this series and going forward can be a bit dicey.
The Cardinals have been solid at the plate all season, ranking second in the majors with a .279 average. In the last series against the Braves, the Cardinals left 26 runners on base. Meanwhile, Carlos Beltran was a one-man wrecking crew in the first game of the series, smacking two home runs and driving in four in a 4-5 performance.
Other than that, the Cardinals didn't hit when they needed to. Leaving that many runners on base, the Cardinals don't really have anyone else to blame but themselves for not getting at least one win in the series.
Matt Holliday has finally started to turn it on and the Cardinals need a big bat to step up to replace Lance Berkman, who is on the DL after knee surgery. Holliday has put together a nice May, batting .308 while cranking six home runs and driving in 19 runs. This is following an awful April in which he posted a .215 batting average and a paltry .277 on-base percentage.
The Cardinals are going to need Holliday and Beltran to lead their attack and drive in runs when ducks are sitting on the pond.