The St. Louis Cardinals Are All that is Evil and Wrong in the World to the Milwaukee Brewers

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | There isn't anything or anyone on Earth that can get under the skin of the Milwaukee Brewers quite like the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mike Matheny's bunch marched into Miller Park on May 2 for a seemingly harmless early-season four-game series against the Brewers, and apparently, they didn't take too kindly to Milwaukee beginning its nine-game winning streak at Busch Stadium earlier this season.

While the Brewers hit line drives straight at Cardinal outfielders who conceivably had the ability to predict the future, the Cardinals hit blooper after blooper just over infielders' heads and just out of the reach of outfielders.

While the Brewers scratched and clawed for any run they could muster against the stingy St. Louis starting pitching staff, the Cardinals always had an immediate answer, demoralizing nearly every Milwaukee comeback attempt.

While the Brewers watched all of their old problems resurface -- poor starting pitching, relievers blowing games and hitters failing to come through in the clutch -- the Cardinals' starting pitchers continued their absurd pace, and their offense built leads that were even too big for their rag-tag bullpen to blow.

And the one time the Brewers actually got to a Cardinal starter -- Adam Wainwright, of all people -- their bullpen let them down -- twice.

The result was a four-game sweep at the hands of the hated Cardinals. Milwaukee has now lost five straight games and dropped from 1/2 game behind the division-leading Cards to 5 1/2 back, just like that.

Just imagine if Tony La Russa was still in the opposing dugout.

Sometimes, baseball can be a cruel mistress, and while there's no denying that St. Louis played better baseball than Milwaukee over the course of the series, the Brewers deserved to take one, maybe even two from the Cardinals. Instead of a series split to help keep some positive momentum moving forward, all wind has been taken out of the Brewers' sails.

So now Milwaukee sits at 14-16 after narrowly missing out on a sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates and jumping to four games above .500, courtesy of John Axford. Instead, the series finale against the Bucs wound up being the start of the Brewers' second five-game skid of the season.

The up-and-down, rollercoaster season continues for a team in desperate need of some consistency. Manager Ron Roenicke was hoping that the return of Aramis Ramirez to the lineup would aid that quest, but the Brewers lost both games in which Ramirez played against St. Louis and are 1-6 with the 34-year-old third baseman in the starting nine.

But that's just a meaningless statistic, as Ramirez is far from the reason why Milwaukee is scuffling -- he's 7-for-19 on the season. He can't take the mound every fifth day, and some of the Brewers' preseason fears are being realized.

Even after the addition of Kyle Lohse, the starting rotation featured some question marks entering the season, and it only took a few weeks for Milwaukee to demote its No. 5 starter to Triple-A Nashville. Through 30 games, Brewer starters have combined for a 4.87 ERA, the second-worst mark in the National League.

Last season's bullpen also reared its ugly head in recent days, blowing two saves during the homestand. That's now six on the season for a unit that lost 29 leads a season ago, and Axford could be one bad outing away from a trip to Nashville to visit his buddy, Mike Fiers.

For Milwaukee, there is no use mulling over the past -- it needs to move forward and put the Cardinal series behind them. Being two games below .500 isn't the end of the world, especially for a team that is still waiting for one key piece to return come the end of May in Corey Hart.

All the Brewers can hope for is to hover around that .500 mark and stay within striking distance of a playoff spot until they get Hart's production back in the lineup and his slick fielding back at first base. The recent schedule hasn't been kind to Milwaukee, and while things aren't about to get any easier (three-game series' upcoming at St. Louis and Cincinnati), it plays seven games against the Pirates in the next 20 days.

While it's concerning that the Brewers can't find a way to beat the best team in their division, the fact of the matter is that St. Louis is one of the best teams in baseball. It features the top rotation in baseball by a landslide as well as a Top 10 offense. Milwaukee doesn't need to leapfrog the Cardinals in order to reach the postseason, especially with two wild card slots up for grabs.

It's been said before time and time again. A championship can't be won in the first half of the season, but it can be lost. The fast-approaching 10-game road trip against the top three foes in the Central division is a critical stretch for the Brewers, and if they can maneuver their way through that gauntlet, greener pastures await.

It's just a matter of finding a way.

Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who contains an unhealthy amount of knowledge about Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline and as a featured columnist among other sites and publications.

You can follow Dave on Twitter @DaveRadcliffe_ .

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