John Lackey Won't Help St. Louis Cardinals If Hitting Woes Continue

By Steve Ungrey
Jeff Curry -- USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Curry — USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals may have learned a valuable lesson on Sunday, even if it took them seven innings to catch up to what new starter John Lackey did for them.

Lackey, who was dealt to the Cardinals on Thursday in exchange for Allen Craig and Joe Kelly, pitched a solid first outing with his new club, only to have Milwaukee Brewers starter Matt Garza match Lackey’s effort by holding the Cardinals to one hit.

Which leads us to the subject of this rant: If the Cardinals want to win the National League Central, they are going to have to hit the ball at some point.

I still believe the acquisition of Lackey and Justin Masterson will help put the Cardinals over the top in the division race, especially when the Brewers only acquired Gerardo Parra and the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates stood pat.

Pitching wins championships, especially in this new era of dead-ball play. But the Cardinals can’t take the term “dead ball” too seriously. At some point… repeat after me… you have to hit the ball.

St. Louis media reported many Cardinal players were upset at the breakup of the team’s chemistry following its 2013 World Series appearance. Why did you trade Craig? He was a great presence on the team! Why did you deal Kelly? He was a great pitcher!

To answer those questions the Cardinals only have to look in the mirror.

Craig and Kelly are gone because the Cardinals could not hit. Yes, they are also gone because the team needed emergency pitching with the loss of players like Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia to shoulder issues, but hitting is also a big reason why general manager John Mozeliak had to make some trades.

Lackey did his part on Sunday, win or lose. He delivered what Mozeliak wanted, which was a strong outing. Up until the seventh inning, however, his teammates didn’t follow suit.

Many more games like this and Masterson and Lackey’s presence won’t matter. Instead of hoisting another division flag, the Cardinals will be lucky to see the wild card round if this keeps up.

You have to hit the ball. Your pitchers can only do so much.

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