Until now, the Cardinals had never been as many as 19 games under .500 in a season under the leadership of franchise chairman Bill DeWitt Jr.

This covers 28 seasons of baseball that began when DeWitt and partners purchased the Cardinals before the 1996 season.

The hopelessly lethargic Cardinals bottomed out by going 1-5 on a pathetic Pennsylvania trip to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They return home with a 56-75 record that’s the new low point of the DeWitt Era.

Makes you sad.

Makes you mad.

Hey, but at least the Cardinals can look forward to having an early first-round selection in the 2024 MLB Draft.

The Cardinals have lost three consecutive series and are 2-9 in their last 11. Since sprinting out of the All-Star break with a 6-1 record in their first seven games, the Cardinals flattened out and are 12-22 in their last 34 encounters. Pretty much every aspect of this team is in disarray.

“We understand where we’re at,” manager Oliver Marmol told the media after the Cardinals were humbugged 3-0 Sunday in Philadelphia. “We had a pretty good understanding, after the trade deadline, what this was going to look like. You’re competing like crazy, but you’re giving some young guys an opportunity to go out there and show what they’re capable of doing. There’s going to be ups and downs. This is part of it.”

Wait a second here …

The “competing like crazy” part confuses me.

Huh? The Cardinals are the exact opposite of a team that’s competing like a bunch of madmen. Instead of going to the trouble of playing games, they should just email these losses in. From an intensity standpoint, they’re not showing up.

The St. Louis offense averaged 2.2 runs per game on the six-game tour of Keystone State, and their pitchers were shredded for a 7.53 ERA. The Cards batted .175 on the trip, hit .128 with runners in scoring position, and were outscored 43-13. Competing like crazy, eh?

In the 0-3 weekend at Philly, the Cardinals had 10 hits in 91 at-bats (.110), struck out in 36 percent of their plate appearances and got trounced for 22 runs while scoring only three of their own. Marmol’s preposterous false praise makes this team even more irritating.

But when the owner is happy with the front office, and the front office is happy with the manager, and the manager is happy with the coaching staff … hey, what do I know? If we’re looking for strong leadership, high standards and accountability, this is the wrong baseball market. It ain’t happening here.

Over their six-game roadie, the Cardinals scored in only nine of 54 innings. They put up more than a single run in only three of the 54 innings. They scored only four runs in their final 34 innings of the two series.

Sure, a downturn was a natural expectation after the Cardinals offloaded on trade-deadline day, moving starting pitchers Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty, relievers Jordan Hicks and Chris Stratton, and shortstop Paul DeJong.

But that shouldn’t be a cover-all excuse for their 9-15 record this month. Here’s why I say this:

The Cardinals were 3-7 in their last 10 games before the trade deadline.

They were 7-14 in games started by Montgomery this season. That record was more of a reflection of the overall performance of a deeply flawed team.

The Cardinals did better in Flaherty’s 20 starts (13–7) but that was mostly about generous run support. Flaherty had a 4.43 ERA as a STL starter this season, but the Cardinals averaged 6.1 runs in Flaherty’s starts – the fourth-highest run support level by a National League starter this season. But that offense has shut down.

The St. Louis starting pitchers have a 5.96 ERA this month, worst in the majors. That’s without Montgomery and Flaherty. And don’t forget that Steven Matz made two superb starts in early August before going on the IL again. But here’s the deal: Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Matthew Liberatore have let the Cardinals down this month with a collective 7.77 ERA. The team is 2-10 in their combined 12 starts.

I don’t think we can say that about rookie Drew Rom, young starter Zack Thompson and veteran Dakota Hudson. Rom was shaky and had a bad start in his MLB debut last week at Pittsburgh but rebounded with a fine performance on Sunday at Philadelphia. Hudson made four solid starts before the Phillies jumped him Saturday. And Thompson has a 3.21 ERA in three August starts.

We’re really only talking about two awful starts this month made by pitchers other than Wainwright, Mikolas and Liberatore – one by Hudson, the other from Rom.

Hudson, Rom and Thompson weren’t supposed to be in the rotation at all but the Cardinals are 5-5 in their 10 August starts. And only two of the 10 starts were clunkers, with Hudson, Thompson and Rom collectively pitching to a 3.53 ERA in their other eight starts. The results have been better than anticipated. Using trades as an excuse only goes so far.

The departures of Hicks and Stratton weakened the Cardinals bullpen, but let’s not get carried away here. As a group the St. Louis relievers have blown 37 leads this season, the fifth-worst total in the majors. The Cards have coughed up too many leads all season, and it didn’t just start after the trade deadline. Fact: in August the Cardinals have four saves in five opportunities. And the Redbirds still won the game after blowing the save. Their relievers have 12 “holds” in August. I’m not suggesting that this is a good bullpen — the ERA is high — but it’s done relatively well at protecting the few leads grabbed by the Cardinals during the dog days of the season. The Cardinals rank 25th in the majors with a 53% save rate. The team’s save rate for August is 80 percent.

The St. Louis offense is tied for 27th overall in runs scored in August. Two primary reasons: a .172 average and .583 OPS with runners in scoring position and a drop in home runs.

What, if any, are the excuses for a cold offense? Trades? Nope. DeJong was the only position player traded, and he had only one homer and a poor .308 slugging percentage in July.

OK, what about injuries? A factor, yes. Not having Brendan Donovan (elbow) is a minus. His last game was July 29 and he won’t be ready to go until 2024 spring training. Edman missed some time. Dylan Carlson (ankle) hasn’t played since Aug. 9, but he had fallen to low-impact status with a .151 average and .449 OPS since the All-Star break. His absence hasn’t mattered. Nolan Gorman was out for nine days (Aug. 13-24) with a lower-back problem. Lars Nootbaar (groin) hasn’t played since Aug. 16, and that weakens the offense. But Noot had 61 August plate appearances before going on the IL. And even with the injuries there’s no excuse for being this bad offensively.

Here’s the bottom line: Lineup regulars Paul Goldschmidt, Tommy Edman, Nolan Arenado, Jordan Walker, Willson Contreras, Tyler O’Neill, Alec Burleson, Andrew Knizner, Gorman and Nootbaar have accounted for 84 percent of the team’s plate appearances this month. This offense hasn’t been decimated by injuries, so there’s no reason to give Marmol and the coaches and the players a free pass for the August slowdown.

ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT: The Cardinals have a .427 winning percentage through 131 games. If that holds (or worsens) this would be the worst Cardinals season during the expansion era, which began in 1961. As of now, the 1978 Cardinals have the lowest winning percentage (.435) by the franchise in a full season since during the expansion era … Cardinals starting pitchers had a 7.71 ERA on the Pennsylvania road trip, with only Thompson and Rom coming through with good starts over the six games … the Cardinals open a six-game homestand on Monday night, with the underachieving Padres in for three, followed by a three-game weekend set against the visiting Pirates. The Cardinals are 28-37 at Busch Stadium this season and have lost four of their last five series at home – going 6-11 in the process … the last time the Cardinals were 19 games under .500 in a season occurred on the final regular-season game of 1995 … the Cardinals’ .427 winning percentage ranks 27th in the majors and 14th in the NL.

AARON NOLA WAS FANTASTIC BUT … anyone that’s really been paying attention to the Cardinals this month has watches this faded team get shut down by lesser starters than Nola. He was extra stingy, getting scratched for one hit and a walk – striking out nine – in seven shutout innings.

But we might want to remember some of the other scenes of opponent-starter domination of St. Louis in August.

Example: Austin Gomber, Joey Lucchesi and Paul Blackburn collectively pitched 18 and ⅔ shutout innings against the feeble Cardinals.

Another example: previously in August Pablo Lopez, Zach Eflin, Kodai Senga, Johan Oviedo and Zack Wheeler each allowed only one run in their starts covering 32 innings.

Put those eight starts together and the Cardinals scored five total runs in 50 and ⅔ innings against Gomber, Lucchesi, Blackburn, Lopez, Eflin, Senga, Oviedo and Wheeler. That’s an 0.89 ERA.

Add Nola’s impeccable Sunday start to the August file, and that makes nine opponent starters who collectively allowed only five earned runs in 57 and ⅔ innings against the Cardinals for an 0.78 ERA.

No question, Nola was outstanding. And unless the Phillies act preemptively and sign Nola to a contract extension, he’ll be on the short list of the most prominent free-agent starting pitchers in the coming offseason. But let’s put some reality into this discussion: these days the standard of excellence against the STL offense is set low.

You don’t have to be a peak-form clone of Tom Seaver or Sandy Koufax to make St. Louis hitters look inept and helpless. Nola was just the latest starter to do it. Sadly, it’s really not difficult to bully or otherwise suppress the uninspired Redbirds. Just ask Lucchesi, Gomber, Blackburn and Oviedo about that.

I don’t think the Cardinals needed to see Nola embarrass them in live competition to realize he’s a very good pitcher who will be coveted by multiple teams in free agency. I’m pretty sure they knew that even before he made their bats disappear.  The BFIB have been on the Nola wish all season.

THE SNOOZING OFFENSE: The Cardinals have slipped to a tie for 14th overall in the majors with their average of 4.50 runs per game. That’s below the overall MLB team average of 4.61 runs per game. The Cardinals have scored no more than three runs in 13 of their 24 games in August.

MILES MIKOLAS: After getting cudgeled by the Phillies on Friday, Mikolas has a 4.66 ERA in 2023. That would be his worst ERA in a season since joining the Cardinals in 2018. Mikolas has a 5.81 ERA in five starts this month. In his last 15 starts, his ERA is 5.49 in 83 and ⅔ innings and the Cardinals are 3-12 in those Mikolas-pitched games … since June 10, the only regular MLB starting pitcher with a poorer ERA than Mikolas is Baltimore’s Kyle Gibson at 5.84. That’s based on a minimum of 80 innings over that time. During this 15-start stretch Mikolas has been pounded for nine home runs, 24 doubles, three triples and a .442 slug that’s the highest against a MLB starter with at least 80 innings since June 10. I’m not sure why some view him as a No. 3 starter. He’s more of a No. 4 or No. 5.

MIKOLAS AND WAINWRIGHT: Last season the Cardinals were 35-30 in games started by their two veterans. This season the Cardinals are 16-29 in games started by Mikolas and Waino. Wainwright goes for career win No. 199 against the Padres on Monday. He’s 0-8 with a 12.56 ERA since bagging career victory No. 198 against the Mets on June 17 at Citi Field. The Cardinals are 1-8 in Wainwright’s last nine starts.

THE MEAN STREETS OF PHILADELPHIA: In getting smothered by Philly pitching over the weekend, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Willson Contreras, Nolan Gorman and Jordan Walker were a combined 3 for 40 with 21 strikeouts. Goldy had two of the hits including a two-run homer … Walker is batting .205 in August with a .356 slugging percentage … Gorman has a .200 batting average this month with a .350 slug and a glaring 42.6 percent strikeout rate (ugh) this month.

PADRES VS. CARDINALS: In order the Padres will start Blake Snell, Seth Lugo and Yu Darvish in the three games at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals will counter, in order, with Wainwright, Zack Thompson and Miles Mikolas … the Wednesday game is a 1:15 p.m. start STL time … despite being ranked 4th overall this season with a 3.82 starting pitching ERA, San Diego is 61-70, has won only six of its last 20 games and just got swept in a three-game series at Milwaukee. The Padres are loaded with stars in the lineup but are tied with the Cardinals for 7th in the NL with an average of 4.5 runs per game … during their 6-14 slide the Padres have batted .220 with runners in scoring position. In getting swept by the Brewers the Padres went 1 for 23 with RISP which prompted Manny Machado to take his bat and destroy a cooler in the visiting-team dugout after popping out with runners on first and third and one out in the seventh inning … both teams have been hideous this season in games decided by one run: San Diego 6-20, St. Louis 10-23.

BREWERS AT CUBS: A big NL Central series gets underway on Monday at Wrigley Field, with the first-place Brewers (73-57) invading the friendly confines for a three-game confrontation with the Cubs (69-61.) It’s an important set for both teams. The Brewers have won eight in a row to open a four-game lead over the Cubs. For their part, the Cubs have gone 26-11 since July 18 to emerge as the most prominent threat to Milwaukee’s hold on first place.

During the eight-game winning streak the Brewers have averaged 7.25 runs per game. The Crew’s rotation has been stabilized by the return of starter Brandon Woodruff. The Cubs’ rotation isn’t as reliable, having pitched to a 4.67 ERA (19th in MLB) since the All-Star break. The Cubs beat up on Pittsburgh this past weekend by scoring 10 runs in back-to-back games for a 7-2 record in their last nine.

“I definitely think we’re the two best teams in the division right now,” Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich said.

The rivals seconded that by lining up their starters for this showdown series. Brewers: Wade Miley, Corbin Burnes, and Brandon Woodruff. Cubs: Jameson Taillon, Justin Steele, and Kyle Hendricks. And both bullpens are fresh, though the Cubs lost Michael Fulmer to the IL.

The Brewers and Cubs will play each other six times the rest of the way. After the next three games in Chicago, the Brewers and Cubs will go head-on in Milwaukee in the final regular-season series.

Thanks for reading …


Bernie hosts an opinionated sports-talk show on 590 The Fan, KFNS. It airs 3-6 p.m. on Monday through Thursday and 4-6 p.m. on Friday. You can stream it live or access the show podcast on or through the 590 The Fan St. Louis app.

Please follow Bernie on Twitter @miklasz

For weekly Cards talk, listen to the “Seeing Red” podcast with Will Leitch and Miklasz via or through your preferred podcast platform. Follow @seeingredpod on Twitter for a direct link.

All stats used in my baseball columns are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, StatHead, Baseball Savant, Fielding Bible and Baseball Prospectus unless otherwise noted.

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.