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The Cardinals Run a Marathon -- And Come in Second

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It took 19 innings, but the Cardinals managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the end. It was, in a very special way, the perfect version of a 2012 Cards game. 

Coming into this latest series against the Pittsburgh Pirates -- aka the team the Cards are chasing in the standings -- the last thing the Redbirds could afford to do was somehow lose even more ground. They finished off their series with Arizona on a low note, losing to the Diamondbacks for the first time in 2012, and headed into a showdown with the Buccos one game down. Two of three for El Birdos and the whole thing would be tied, a clean slate with just over a month to go. And a sweep? Oh, such hopeful dreams! A two game lead on the Pirates was possible, if only the Cards could play some brilliant baseball. 

Instead, they lost two of three, fell to two games back of Pittsburgh, and showcased exactly what the 2012 Cardinals are all about: missed opportunities and coming up small in the biggest situations. 

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the state of the Cardinals' pitching this season, particularly of the bullpen variety, and with good reason. The Cards' relief corps has been nothing short of catastrophic much of the time, and the starters have been more than a little hit-and-miss themselves. However, Barret Browning's awful outing aside -- and let's face it; Browning probably doesn't belong in the big leagues anyway -- the pitching was absolutely magnificent yesterday. The blame for Sunday's heartbreak has to fall squarely on the shoulders of the Cardinal offense. 

I said yesterday morning that it might have been the biggest game of the season, both because of the potential standings changes and the return of Jaime Garcia. Well, the standings are ugly today, but Jaime's first game back was, to put it lightly, a thing of beauty. Eight innings, ten strikeouts, zero walks. Just let that sink in for a moment. He gave up just five hits, and if not for his own inability to field a bunt and some really rotten luck on a couple weakly hit balls, Garcia never would have been in a position to get that no decision. 

You know who else was pretty awesome? Joe Kelly. He apparently decided he didn't feel like being a reliever after all, and threw his usual 5+ innings. He did allow a run, (well, sort of: Marc Rzepczynski was already on the mound by the time the run crossed the plate; shocking that Scrabble couldn't get the job done), nearly ending up the losing pitcher, but making his first relief appearance in the big leagues Joe did absolutely nothing to make me think he can't be a remarkable reliever. In his first inning of work, he struck out Pedro Alvarez on a fastball that came in at 99 and may have caused at least one spontaneous erection in the St. Louis area. I'm not saying who, necessarily; just, you know, it might have happened.

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