They're not going to win every game. And after traveling across the continent in the midst of a 13-game stretch with no days off, they are doing great to win most games.
This was not one of those games they were going to win.
Though it started innocently enough, and actually stayed that way for quite awhile, the Cardinals game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park ended with a huge thud. The home team plated five in the final three and a half innings, as they drubbed the Cardinals 6-1 Monday night.
Though Dakota Hudson has seen up and down results this year, this one was not on him, unless you blame him for only lasting five frames. The sinkerball expert took full advantage of his downward action, as nine of his 15 outs came via the grounder.
But six hits and four walks doomed Hudson's ability to last beyond five. While a couple double plays and other ground balls saved him from the loss, his consistent inconsistency resulted in 81 pitches and a 2.0 WHIP in the short start.
And for one of the very few times in 2020, the Cards bullpen, sitting atop the National League with a sparking 3.06 ERA, fell apart, largely in the couple innings handled by John Gant.
Loading the bases in the sixth, Gant, like Hudson before him, looked on the verge of escape. But on a 3-2 count with two out, Fernando Tatis Jr cleared the bases with a blistering low line double to right center. That broke a 1-1 tie and put the Cards in a permanent hole.
While Gant went scoreless in the seventh, Tyler Webb and Daniel Poncedeleon combined to give up a couple runs in the eighth on a hit, a walk, a passed ball and an RBI single by catcher Francisco Mejia, that scored both baserunners and set the final score.
The game looked at first like it would serve as a poor man's pitcher's duel, with scant runs despite a bunch of men on base. Just as with Hudson, Padres starter Zach Davies escaped serious harm a couple times in his six innings.
Hudson fell behind on a solo shot from the bat of Manny Machado in the first, but that wasn't what got him in trouble.
In both the second and third, Hudson put the first two men on with a walk and a hit. The first time, he escaped with a double play off the bat of Jurickson Profar. The next time, it took a sparking backhand from Kolten Wong and a flip toss to shortstop Edmundo Sosa to end the inning.
Davies was having about as much success, which is to say, none in keeping batters off base and a lot in preventing them from scoring.
Stranding six batters in the same number of innings, Davies only gave up a run in the third, when Dakota Hudson singled, advanced on Hudson's sac fly, and scored on a pop single to right off the bat of Dexter Fowler.
Otherwise, the lethargic Cards did little when the chips were on the line. Twice they had runners on third that could not advance. Twice they struck out with two men on and two out.
The oomph was just not there on this particular night.
"We had such a great run on our home stretch," said Wong of the Cards (17-11), who were coming off a sweep of the Miami Marlins. "Hopefully, we'll get rested up before Tuesday night and focus on getting back to our winning ways."
Next Up and Notes: Tuesday night brings Kyung Hyun Kim back to the mound and his first start against the Pads and in Petco. Young ace Chris Paddack goes for San Diego. Paul DeJong still looks on track for a weekend start, subject to any setbacks in the interim. Brad Miller committed his fourth error at shortstop but it made no difference in the final tally.
Carlson in his 10 starts is batting .273 with an OBP of .341, with three doubles and a homer. He's mostly in a center-field split with Harrison Bader, but has seen a few games of action in left field as well. It's been a luxury for the Cards to carry so many outfielders -- Carlson, Bader, Fowler, Tyler O'Neill, Lane Thomas and occasionally Tommy Edman, who has shuffled between third and left field.