With a nod to the late Joe Strummer and The Clash, I’ll say that the Cardinals and Cubs went London Balling over the weekend, and the result was your basic 1-1 draw in the English Premier League.

After absorbing a 9-1 humiliation on Saturday, the Cardinals saved face and prevented another unhappy flight Sunday by scrapping for an improbable 7-5 win over the rival Cubs at London Stadium.

With the Chicagoans bopping the Cardinals around during an error-plagued four-run first inning, it seemed like the Redbirds were in for another hard day’s night. At that point the fragile Cards had been outscored 13-1 in the series and it wasn’t much of a clash.

Sleepy Cardinals fans back home – coping with a 9:10 a.m. local start – may have doubled up on the Bloody Marys to get through another beatdown of their moribund team.

That’s what made the STL comeback so striking. The Cardinals had 12 hits – 11 of which were singles. They walked only twice. Willson Contreras had a double, but the Cardinals did not homer. They pecked their way to seven runs – and that’s a rare occurrence for the 2023 Cardinals.

Throw in some timely hits, some goofy Cubs’ defensive mishaps and a nasty right-index finger blister that caused Chicago ace starter Marcus Stroman to depart early, and the Cardinals outscored the Cubs 7-1 the rest of the day. Another expected comedown turned into an unexpected comeback.

Winning for the fifth time in seven games, the Cardinals journeyed home with a 5-3 record during their road stops in New York, Washington and London. A series split against the Cubs was acceptable under the circumstances. And the Cardinals did well to win five of eight on the road, but the success is relative. When a good MLB team puts together a 5-3 stretch, it’s barely noticeable. It’s just another section of schedule.

Truth is, this 5-3 road trip was a bandage that temporarily slowed the bleeding. If the Redbirds are hanking for an NL Central title, they can’t go 5-3 as a one-off. They’ll have to win five of eight games over and over and over again.

That’s not all. The Cardinals’ abysmal starting pitching is a huge problem to overcome. The team’s defense is a liability in run prevention. The offense lacks consistency, going from one extreme to another. Their lineup is either molten hot or deepfreeze cold. How can any team stitch together sustained success when afflicted by such obvious and debilitating weaknesses?

STL’s next 13-game block of games will lead directly to the All-Star break and give us a sign of what to expect in the buildup to the Aug. 2 MLB trade deadline.

Beginning Tuesday, the Cardinals will have a six-game homestand that puts the Astros and Yankees at Busch Stadium, and that’s followed by a six-game road excursion to south Florida (Marlins) and the south side of Chicago (White Sox.) The first three teams on the itinerary collectively have a .553 winning percentage.

Despite their modest 5-3 upturn the Cardinals have actually lost ground in June. They ended May with a 25-32 record for a .439 winning percentage and were only five games out of first place. The Cards are 7-13 in June for a .350 winning percentage and are currently 8 and ½ games out of first.

This would be a swell time for the Cardinals to start winning at home. Their record at Busch this season is 14-22, a home winning percentage that ranks 27th overall and 14th in the NL.

Worse than that, the home .389 winning percentage would be the worst by the Cardinals during the post-expansion era, which began in 1962 for the NL. And going all the way back to 1901, this .389 home winning percentage would be the sixth-worst by the Cardinals in 123 seasons of baseball – with only the 1903, 1909, 1908, 1906 and Cardinals turning in a more miserable record at home than the ‘23 edition. The Redbirds have played only 36 games at home so far — leaving 45 to go — but that won’t matter if they continue to flatline at home.

I’ll be polite and say there’s still time for a turnaround. But with only 53 percent of their regular-season schedule remaining the Cardinals must undergo a sudden and massive transformation to become a contending-caliber team.

They’ll require solid starting pitching, a fireproof bullpen, a steadfast defense, keen  baserunning and a dominant home record in their final 45 home games.

That’s a dizzying makeover.

It’s possible to close a gap of 8 and 1/2 games in the NL Central. But that’s likely impossible with the Cardinals having so much disorder in virtually every phase of the game.

Maybe that’s why Baseball Prospectus gives the Cardinals a 4.0 percent chance of reaching the postseason. Hey, but that’s still a chance — right? You don’t have to answer.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie invites you to listen to his sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS-AM. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app.

Follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Baseball Savant, Sports Info Solutions, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus.

Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.