Boston Red Sox's Garrett Cooper, left, slides safely into home...

Boston Red Sox's Garrett Cooper, left, slides safely into home plate for a run ahead of the tag by St. Louis Cardinals catcher Pedro Pages, right, in the fourth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 19, 2024, in St. Louis. Credit: AP/Joe Puetz

A model of consistency for so long, the St. Louis Cardinals are suddenly struggling to stay relevant.

Even after taking two of three against both the Angels and Red Sox, the Cardinals are six games under .500. They've rebounded from a seven-game losing streak earlier this month, winning five of their last seven, but they're seven games out of first place, and their run differential of minus-49 is by far the worst in the NL Central.

St. Louis went 71-91 last year, snapping a streak of 15 straight winning seasons. If they finish with a losing record two years in a row, it'll be the first time they've done that since the strike-shortened 1994 and 1995 campaigns. You have to go all the way back to 1958 and 1959 to find the last time the Cardinals were under .500 for two consecutive non-shortened seasons.

This is the franchise that let Albert Pujols leave and kept right on contending. The team that turned an 83-win season in 2006 into a World Series title. It's hard to write the Cardinals off, but it's also getting harder to see a particularly bright future.

The Brewers and Cubs are currently battling for the division lead. The Pirates and Reds are under .500 with St. Louis, but Pittsburgh has several years of Paul Skenes to look forward to. The same with Cincinnati and Elly De La Cruz.

St. Louis has only one top-50 prospect in MLB Pipeline's ranking — and that's right-hander Tink Hence, who is ranked 49th and currently in Double-A. Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman and Dylan Carlson were top St. Louis prospects over the past few years. Carlson is batting .130, and Walker was sent back to the minors after a 9-for-58 start to 2024. Gorman is batting .200.

Masyn Winn, the team's 22-year-old infielder, has been a little better, but only the Blue Jays and White Sox have fewer runs this season than the Cardinals. And that's after the St. Louis offense finally showed some signs of life this past week, twice scoring 10 runs and twice scoring seven.

St. Louis Cardinals' Michael Siani, right, is tagged out by...

St. Louis Cardinals' Michael Siani, right, is tagged out by Boston Red Sox shortstop David Hamilton, left, on an attempted steal, as umpire Jeremie Rehak, center, watches during the fifth inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 18, 2024, in St. Louis. Credit: AP/Joe Puetz

TRIVIA TIME

Who led the 1995 Cardinals in home runs with 25?

ON THEIR WAY BACK?

Houston dug itself quite a hole early this season, but the worst may be over. After sweeping Oakland and taking two of three from Milwaukee, the Astros have won nine of their last 11. Although they're still just 21-26 and in third place in the AL West, FanGraphs gives them a 56% chance to make the playoffs.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Skenes threw six no-hit innings for the Pirates against the Cubs on Friday, striking out 11 before being pulled with 100 pitches. It was only his second big league start, and the 2023 No. 1 overall draft pick has already made some history. His 11 strikeouts were a franchise record for a starter at Wrigley Field, where the Pirates have played over 1,000 games.

COMEBACK OF THE WEEK

Down by four in the bottom of the ninth, the Miami Marlins came back to tie it against Mets closer Edwin Díaz thanks to an RBI single by Jazz Chisholm and a three-run homer by Josh Bell. Otto Lopez then gave the Marlins a 10-9 win with a 10th-inning single.

New York had a win probability of 98.8% in the ninth inning according to Baseball Savant. It was that kind of week for the Mets, who dropped three of four to the first-place Phillies before losing two of three to the last-place Marlins.

TRIVIA ANSWER

Ray Lankford.

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