Cardinals-Astros: Ryan Franklin Hands Houston The Broom

Brian McDowellCorrespondent IJuly 23, 2009

Going into the ninth inning last night, all seemed well in Cardinal Nation. Earlier in the day, St. Louis had managed to trade away Chris Duncan, easily the worst player on their roster. Now, at Minute Maid Park, the Redbirds were beating the Astros 3-2.

They managed to shake the confidence of the Astros' ace, Roy Oswalt. Mark DeRosa hit his 3rd home run in two games, giving fans of the Cardinals plenty of reasons for optimism about his future with this team. Albert Pujols hadn't managed to come up with any hits, but, otherwise, the St. Louis offense seemed healthy and alive. Chris Carpenter had pitched well for eight innings, allowing only five hits and two runs, and was on the verge of earning his ninth win of the year.

The usually reliable All-Star closer Ryan Franklin took the mound, up by a run, prepared to earn yet another save. Then the game took a horrifying turn. Ivan Rodriguez hit a single to centerfield, and then was driven home by Chris Coste's double, tying the game. Then, after a couple of outs, Miguel Tejada hit a single, driving home the winning run. Thanks to Franklin's piss poor performance, the Astros won the game 4-3. It was rare and sad to see Ryan Franklin blow a save, especially when it allowed the Cardinals to get swept by one of their division rivals.

Now, St. Louis is only winning the Central Division by one game. Both the Astros and the Cubs are currently nipping at their heels. Considering that the Redbirds have upcoming series against the two best teams in the National League, the Phillies and the Dodgers, and a rematch with the Astros, their lead is very fragile, and probably won't last the week.

The Cardinals have one make-up game against the terrible Washington Nationals tonight, and, the way things stand in their division, they need to win it. As gratifying as it was to see this ream make a proactive trade yesterday, there is still obvious steps that need to be taken to guarantee their success. If St. Louis is serious about making it to the playoffs this season, they can't continue to get swept by mediocre teams like the Astros.