Tom Ackerman

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Someone, anyone: Wake up the damn squirrel.

The Cardinals’ vaunted offense has gone missing.  And if they don’t find a way to generate some runs soon, they’re going to be on the outside of an expanded wild card field in 2012.

There’s a great opportunity this year for the Cardinals to get back into the postseason, with a second wild card added in each league.  But after Pedro Alvarez’s dagger of a home run helped the Pirates to a 6-3, 19-inning victory on Sunday, the Cardinals now trail the gritty Pittsburghers by two games for that extra spot.

Six weeks to go.  It’s time to turn it on, gentlemen, before it’s too late.

Yes, it can be done.  A year ago, the Cardinals trailed by 10.5 games in the race, only to blister the Braves and the rest of the NL in an improbable, magical run to the world championship in 2011.  And the Cardinals are only two games back on August 20, 2012.

There’s a big difference this time around, however.  The Pirates don’t appear to be going away.

Remember July 26, 2011?  The Pirates lost a 19-inning game to the Braves that night/morning (it ended at 1:50 a.m. ET) when Julio Lugo scored the winning run.  Somehow, Lugo was called safe by home plate umpire Jerry Meals.  Remember who threw the ball home from third base?  Yep, Pedro Alvarez.  The Pirates quietly folded after that.

Did you see Alvarez yesterday?  Made a little noise, didn’t he?

How will the Cardinals respond to their own heartbreaking defeat?

They’ll have to do better than 13-21 in one-run contests; they must improve on the bullpen’s tendency to let games slip away.

But mostly, the Cardinals need to hit when it counts.  They’re a dangerous team, for sure, but the NL’s most ferocious offense can be a kitten at times.  At one point in yesterday’s game, the Pirates had retired 22 of 24 batters.  The Cardinals went 13 innings without scoring a run.  Matt Holliday and David Freese were a combined 0-for-15.

The Cardinals haven’t hit a home run since last Wednesday.  Wild Cards?  They seem pretty mild to me.  They’re better than that.  Much better.

By the way, when it comes to the wild card, let’s not forget about the Giants, who are just one game out.  The Giants won’t have Melky Cabrera during the stretch run (50-game suspension), but they do have the Dodgers serving as a pace car in the NL West race.  That heated rivalry is renewed tonight in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers up by just a half-game.

The Pirates are in San Diego, taking on a Padres team that is 17 games below .500.

The Cardinals absolutely must take care of business against the Astros this week.  Translation: sweep ’em.

And maybe sprinkle a few acorns around home plate.

Tom Ackerman is Sports Director at KMOX.  He can be heard weekday mornings at :15 and :45 past the hour on “Total Information A.M.” Follow him on Twitter: @Ackerman1120


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