Well, there’s no other way to say it, last week was a real bastard for the Cardinals. We come out of the break — sweep the lowly Padres and things look all peachy. All of a sudden Milwaukee comes to town and we get swept right back. Follow that up with losing a series to the Mets and it’s hard to be especially optimistic. For some reason though, I’m still not as pessimistic as I probably should be.

The worst part is that Milwaukee is back in the race and we were the team that let them get there. We let them get there in a really ugly display of a bullpen. The Cards probably should have at least split with them, maybe even taken three out of four, but it didn’t turn out that way. If they would only play six or seven innings, I can’t help but feel we would look a lot better. Sadly, they still play nine.

It’s just a nightmare to see the starter come out of the game. It’s sort of a pick your poison when you look at the list. McClellan looks okay sometimes, but he gives up the long ball far too much. Izzy has no confidence and no cut fastball anymore. Franklin is overworked and probably not as good as his stats last year. Flores makes me long for the days of Jeff Fassero. Chris Perez was inexplicably sent back down to AAA. Believe it or not, I actually have more confidence in Brad Thompson than anyone else out there.

The sad part if, I’m not sure the cavalry is coming in regards to the pen. Any team that might have a guy we’d want knows we’re in dire straits and is asking far too much. It’s hard to mortgage the future for a rental player that probably won’t help all that much.

There may be a few things that happen that could help the bullpen though. Chris Carpenter is heading back to the rotation on Wednesday. It seems early to rush him back after only two rehab starts, but desperate times, desperate measures and all that. He likely won’t go over five or six innings for awhile, but he’s probably better than any other option we have. If nothing else, we can move one of the starters to the pen and hope for the best.

Adam Wainwright should also be back in a week or two. We miss him in the rotation and he’s one of the few starters that can actually give you eight or nine innings on occasion. Still, I’d almost be an advocate of putting him in a relief role for a few games. He’s closed before and he’s a gamer. He can get his groove back and maybe win a few ballgames for us in the process.

Offensively, we still don’t score enough runs most of the time. I don’t think there’s help on the way there either. Once again, to get a quality player, you’ve got to give up something of quality and I just don’t believe the Redbirds are ready to do that.

The front office has made it clear that they want to compete but they are also looking to the future. It’s a tough balance, especially when your team is still in contention. It’s hard to leave a team like this hanging in the wind without the players they need to compete, but it’s far tougher to tear apart a farm system that’s just beginning to look respectable again. It’s excruciating to watch now, but it may be exactly what they need to do.