The Cardinals have shown that they can win without their superstar Albert Pujols in the lineup. However, the margin of error is growing smaller.
Despite a quality start by Joel Pineiro, the Cardinals lost to the Royals 2-1 on Tuesday night. This starts their 12-game road trip against the American League.
Pineiro pitched seven innings, while only giving up one run on seven hits and striking out four. It was a strong outing indeed.
That start, and a successful return by Jason Isringhausen, was squandered, as Ron Villone gave up a solo home run to Mike Aviles. The offense wasn't there, but the pitching was, As Albert Pujols has been sidelined, the Cardinals' offensive machine looks in need of an oil change.
Though the Cardinals erupted for 10 runs on June 6, the day Pujols was placed on the disabled list with a strained left calf, they've been largely quiet since. St. Louis has tallied 15 runs in the five games since Pujols' injury, and only 12 have been charged as earned runs to opposing pitchers. In four of the last five games, the Cards have scored three runs or fewer.
The line of pitchers the Cardinals have faced in recent losses haven't been aces, and are pitchers that aren't necessarily intimidating. Pitchers such as Bronson Arroyo, Adam Eaton, Kyle Davies, and Brett Myers are not what I would call aces of a rotation.
Even Cardinal infielder Brendan Ryan agreed that with Pujols sidelined, it has hampered the Cardinals offense.
"Any time you don't have Albert in the lineup, that doesn't help," said Brendan Ryan, who went 0-for-4. "But we've won some games without him. Obviously we're better with him, so it will be nice to have him back, but collectively we'd like to swing the bat a lot better."
Ryan also knew that Kyle Davies was nothing that special. He didn't know why the Redbirds couldn't muster enough offense to back up their starter Pineiro.
"There really were no surprises," Ryan said. "We just didn't hit the ball tonight, it looked like he threw a lot of fastballs. I got a couple fastballs and I didn't do anything with them. I think we all might have gotten a couple pitches to hit, but he did what he was supposed to do and he got us out."
Despite Skip Schumaker and Ryan Ludwick continuing to be on hot streaks, the rest of the team seems to be in an ice box. Rick Ankiel is five-for-28, replacement Chris Duncan is three-for-24, and Aaron Miles is one-for-13 for this past week. Not what I would call putting on a hitting clinic.
Pineiro still expressed his appreciation for his teammates after the tough loss, and he showed some leadership of his own.
"All the hitters, all the pitchers that go out there, defense, they want to be perfect," Pineiro said. "They want to be the one guy to have the big swing of the bat or make the great play. Today, we got outplayed. It was a good game. There's nothing guys should keep their heads down [about]."
The highlight of the night came from the return of Jason Isringhausen, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning. The return will help solidify a shaky bullpen that has seen the likes of Kelvin Jimenez and Mark Worrell struggle often.
Afterwards, Isringhausen spoke about his return.
"To go out there and throw out a zero, it just helps the team," Isringhausen said. "I gave us a shot to come back and that's better than what I had been doing. I just have to go out there next time, maybe tomorrow, and do it again."