Cardinals: Improvement at Busch hinges on starting pitching

Will the Busch Stadium dominating St. Louis Cardinals please stand up? How about the starters?

The Cardinals recently conducted a fantasy football draft with Adam Wainwright's charity-giving soul leading the way. That's just lovely. If the Cardinals don't start winning at home, players and coaches will be able to fully engage themselves in their fantasy rosters sooner rather than later. Let me break it down for you.

The Cardinals have 14 games remaining at home and 10 on the road. 

The New York Mets are tied with the Cards for the second wildcard spot going into tonight's action, and have an easier finish to the regular season than the Redbirds. Say what you want about spoilers, but the Metropolitans have won five in a row and playing solid baseball. Narratives are fun and all, but execution on a baseball field is better.

The Cards must fix this Busch Stadium issue. The Cardinals bring a 30-37 home record into their four game series against the lowly Brewers. The reasons why aren't scientific. This is a power-bolstered squad, and their lousy defense, baserunning, late-game bullpen management and overall execution of all things fundamental in baseball lacks punch at home.

Photos: A look behind the scenes at Busch Stadium

They are like Rocky in the sixth chapter, where Apollo Creed's former trainer tells Rocky he doesn't have the knees to do the conditioning, the stamina to withstand real training or the reflexes to properly take on a younger, faster opponent. Rocky must work off the ability to deliver "hurting bombs". The Cards are the same way.

Beat-able Brewers back at Busch

There aren't many teams that the St. Louis Cardinals have been able to beat at Busch Stadium this year. One of them is coming to town for the next four games, which might be the boost St. Louis needs as it fights for one of two National League wild-card spots with San Francisco and the New York Mets.

However, it is plausible to improve slightly during this last stretch. The defense may still provide a stinker of a game, but overall they have improved from terrible to bad over the past few months. 

The base running still has issues with keeping runners on base and not thrown out, but that is something that can be honed in, especially if the team can Skype in Jose Oquendo at third base for the Cubs series.

The starting pitching is the only real way to fix the home record. The Cards beat the Pittsburgh Pirates this week while receiving 13 total innings of work from the starters. I don't care how old Luke Weaver is, what Mike Leake went through or what Adam Wainwright used to be. They all need to better. If they don't, they can donate more time to their fantasy football rosters.

Photos: Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright

The Cards are entering a stretch of play where age, resume and past events depart and the only thing left is what's ahead of you. September separates the men from the boys, and playoff dreamers from postseason spot owners. For the first time in years, the Cards are fighting like a tiring heavyweight lumbering into the final rounds of a match he has no reason to win.

If the starting pitching improves, other areas will. The bullpen will feel less pressure, the defense will loosen up, and the baserunning may fall under miracle status and produce better results.

The Cards lost three of their four home series in August. Two of those were to Atlanta and Oakland, a pair of bad teams. They have eight games against Milwaukee and Cincinnati at home remaining, and winning less than 7 is unacceptable. It's come down to every game being a must-win affair. 

It didn't have to be this way, but the Cards made it that way with their uneven play. They've lost 12 games to below .500 teams since Aug. 1. They made their own bed and now have to sleep in it. 

Attention Jaime Garcia, owner of a supposedly solid record at Busch Stadium: Be great tonight.

Wainwright, take care of business on Saturday. You may not be an ace, but you can still pull one out of your hat down the stretch. 

The Cards have 14 games left at Busch Stadium. If they want to play more than that, they must get better starting pitching. Deeper, more effective, and all together sharper pitching. 


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