Pitching, patience will flip Cards' direction
Matheny looks to season-long dominance of staff for comfort
ST. LOUIS -- On the heels of losing for the fourth time in five games -- during which the Cardinals have been outscored 30-11 -- Mike Matheny chose to display minimal reaction. Not one to celebrate exuberantly when things go well, the Cardinals manager also doesn't show signs of panic when things spiral in the other direction.
So in the minutes following their worst shutout loss to the Cubs (9-0) in 34 years, Matheny did not gather his players for a team meeting or indicate that these recent losses bother him any more than a bundle of them in April. Instead, he preached perspective.
"You can draw any conclusions you want to draw over the last few days, but we're not," Matheny said, taking exception to a reporter's characterization that the team had been "roughed up" in recent days. "If I would have seen sloppy play, if I would have seen lack of hustle, if I would have seen lack of execution as far as mental preparation, if it looked like something was off in that regard, we'd have a talk. But that's not the case. We got roughed up early on, and it was too much to bounce back from."
The Cubs raced out to an eight-run lead while sending Lance Lynn to the showers before he could record his eighth out. Lynn's brief outing -- which he strongly hinted afterward was the result of being out of sync from the Cardinals pushing his start back three days -- was an anomaly in a season where the Cards have been carried by their pitching.
Perhaps that's why this last stretch of games looks so unusual. After allowing five or more runs in just 33 of the team's first 129 games, the pitching staff has given up that many in six of the last eight. The offense was able to carry the club to wins in the three of those games but has been unable to overcome the slippage in losses to Pittsburgh (9-3 on Friday, 7-1 on Saturday) and against Chicago.
In Monday's case, the Cardinals were in an eight-run hole before coming to bat in the third.
"I think we've been so accustomed to seeing that starting pitching so locked down that when we don't see it, it just looks extremely odd," Matheny said. "It's going to happen from time to time. We just can't make too much of it."
The recent stretch is also jarring because of how well the Cardinals have played at home. Entering Friday's game against Pittsburgh, they were 48-20 at Busch Stadium. They're still seeking home win No. 50. The club hasn't had this poor a stretch in front of the home crowd since losing four straight as June turned to July.
How did the club respond from that lull? By reeling off five wins in the seven games.
"[There is] nothing to panic about," shortstop Jhonny Peralta said. "We're five [and a half] games ahead [in the National League Central standings], so there's nothing to worry about."