Contreras 'looking for answers' to solve major slump

Cardinals catcher mired in 5-for-59 skid after going hitless in series-opening loss to Giants

June 13th, 2023

ST. LOUIS -- From afar in recent years, admired the Cardinals’ culture and longed to be a part of an organization that not only consistently won, but usually found ways to do so in the tightest spots with a team-wide belief in its abilities.

Finally a part of the Cards after leaving the rival Cubs, Contreras is as dumbfounded as anyone at how this season has gone. A franchise that he ached to be a part of has seemingly lost its way yet again after a series-opening 4-3 defeat to the Giants on Monday night at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis (27-40) has lost 10 of its past 13 games.

“I'm looking for answers, for sure, but we’re playing [poorly] and that's really the only answer right now,” a somewhat rattled Contreras said following the Cardinals’ third loss in as many days.

“We have [16] losses by one run and it’s really frustrating. I think throughout the year, we haven't come together as a team, and that's something that is showing up right now.”

Also, Contreras hasn’t come with the offensive upgrade that he was supposed to provide a franchise attempting to replace iconic catcher Yadier Molina, the Cardinals’ backstop for the previous 19 seasons.

Another hitless game against the Giants dropped Contreras’ batting average to .201 -- 42 points lower than what he hit last season as an All-Star starter and 36 points lower than his worst MLB season (.237 in 2021).

Over his past 18 games, Contreras is just 5-for-59 with only two home runs and three RBIs -- hardly the numbers the Cardinals expected out of the No. 5 spot in their batting order.

“This is my first time since I’ve been in the big leagues that I have struggled this bad,” said Contreras, who has just two extra-base hits during his 2 1/2-week-long slump. “I think I've lost my confidence and I lost my trust, and lost the trust that I came into the season with. It just went away.

“I don’t think, I know I have to keep going,” Contreras added. “Right now, I have to find ways to get myself going. I've been hitting the ball hard, but right to people. That’s something that is out of my control, but man, I just have to keep playing hard one play at a time and be the best that I can for the team and my teammates.”

Contreras and his teammates are understandably rattled by going 7-16 in one-run games, including dropping games on Sunday and Monday that were eerily similar in how they unfolded.

On Sunday against the Reds, veteran pitcher Adam Wainwright surrendered a two-out bloop hit in the sixth that knotted the game and then the Cardinals committed a series of eight-inning gaffes in a 4-3 loss.

On Monday, the Cards got a strong start by Matthew Liberatore, who left with a 3-2 lead after six innings. Reliever Andre Pallante retired the first two batters of the seventh before walking Wilmer Flores.

Following a single by J.D. Davis, Mitch Haniger fell into an 0-2 hole and then fisted a ball down the first-base line to tie the game at 3. In the eighth, Patrick Bailey ended an 11-pitch at-bat with a double before coming around to score on Brandon Crawford’s decisive opposite-field single.

“You’re going to be frustrated no matter how you lose. Whether you get blown out or it’s a one-run loss, it’s still a loss,” said Paul Goldschmidt, who ended a 10-game streak without a hit with runners in scoring position with a two-run home run in the sixth inning.

“I’m up there [with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth] and if I get a hit, we tie the game. I mean, I definitely go home thinking about that, because you feel like you let the team down.”

Contreras has gone home thinking about the struggles of the Cardinals and himself personally plenty of nights.

In the second inning, the 31-year-old backstop smashed a ball 111.7 mph, but it was right at San Francisco’s Thairo Estrada for an easy out. In the sixth, the Cardinals had a chance to add onto their 3-2 lead, but Contreras' hard-hit grounder was turned into an inning-ending double play.

“Man, it’s been really hard, like a roller coaster,” Contreras said. “I don't know if baseball is trying to show me something I'm not seeing or maybe I just need to look at it a different way.

“But I'll tell you what -- every time I come here, I’ll come with a smile and try to find ways to win a game. I'm trying to be better for our team.”