MILWAUKEE - At the start of a week that the St. Louis Cardinals have branded "daunting" because of all the doubleheaders smooshed into so few days, there are plenty of reasons for there to be angst about the pitching, the innings, and the recent injuries to stalwart relievers.
On Monday, the Cardinals didn't lack for pitching against the Milwaukee Brewers. They had plenty. They usually do. The roster is teeming with pitching depth.
It's the offense, the car keys to rallies, they too often misplace.
The Cardinals got seven shutout innings from Kwang Hyun Kim and six superb innings from Daniel Ponce de Leon and still searched for runs, any kind of runs, even accidental runs to back the starters. The Cardinals scored four runs in the doubleheader, two of them in extra innings with the head start of a runner at second base. That was enough to overcome a two-run Jedd Gyorko homer in Game 2 for a 3-2 victory in nine innings and a doubleheader split.
The Brewers' 2-1 victory in Game 1 came on a sacrifice fly in the eighth with all of the runs being scored in extra innings. Both games needed extra innings to be decided - a referendum on the two teams' troubles scoring runs as much as how evenly matched they are or where they fit in the standings.
That could have gotten tighter Monday, too.
The start of a five-game, three-day set against the Brewers at Miller Park allowed the third-place Brewers (21-25) to close the gap with the second-place Cardinals (21-21). A sweep of the doubleheader by Milwaukee would have created a virtual tie for second in the division. The Cardinals overcome 15 strikeouts in the second game and a five-for-20 game with runners in scoring position to split the doubleheader.
Ponce de Leon did what he could in his cameo return to the rotation by striking out nine and pitching into the seventh inning. The only welt on his pitching line was Gyorko's two-run homer. In the bottom of the seventh, Alex Reyes pitched out of a jam to force the game into extras.
Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes, one of the finer starters in the division with a sub-1.00 WHIP and a 1.99 ERA to start Monday's game, gave the Cardinals opportunities to dent the scoreboard, and they found different ways to squander them. A single and a walk in the first inning left two runners stranded on a popup to end the inning. A leadoff single and a walk put two runners on for the middle of the order, and Burnes promptly struck out two batters to regain control of the inning and leave the runners on base.
Not even a wild pitch could grease a rally.