ST. LOUIS – Mike Matheny has stressed patience, saying almost daily that the Cardinals current offensive slide is nothing more than a blip on the radar of a long season.
As the slump goes on, the dot continues to get bigger.
The Cardinals scored three runs Tuesday night in a 6-3 loss to Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. And while struggling to score is understandable against the reigning American League Cy Young and MVP winner, the Cardinals were a dropped popup away from having just one run.
After scoring just 14 total runs in the first seven games of the recently completed home stand – five of which came in one game – the Cardinals scored just three runs in 15 innings Sunday and three more Tuesday.
The offense is certainly struggling. But the real question is, why? With names like Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, Rafael Furcal, David Freese and Allen Craig in the lineup on a regular basis, the Cardinals lineup seems too good to be losing games because of a lack of offense.
Matheny agrees, saying during the recent homestand that the slump won’t last.
“It’s just a short little segment of a long season,” Matheny said. “I think the longer sample we have is more indicative. You just go through stretches like this. You can’t be surprised in this game because it happens. You’re going to have those.
“It happens to the best teams, the best offenses. The best defenses go through little spurts, the best pitching staffs go through it. It’s just part of the game. You just can’t go through a season without having a spurt like this. It’s too long of a season.”
Despite their recent stretch, the Cardinals still lead the National League in batting average, hits, home runs, total bases and RBI and are second in runs scored, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
While injuries to Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, Matt Carpenter and Lance Berkman have been part of the reason for the recent offensive struggles, individual drop-offs by key players have been big factors as well.
No slump has had more of a direct impact on the offense then that of Furcal. The leadoff hitter went 0-for-4 Tuesday and is stuck in a 2-for-36 slump in his last 10 games dating back to June 8. He’s hitting .182 since May 14 and has seen his average drop from .383 to .283 in his past 33 games.
The Cardinals were 20-11 on May 9, a season high nine games over .500. A large part of the club’s early success was due to Furcal, who was hitting .361 and had a .423 on-base percentage the first 31 games of the season. They are 14-23 since.
It’s rather simple: when Furcal gets on base, the Cardinals score runs … when he doesn’t, they struggle.
“That’s baseball,” Matheny told reporters after Tuesday’s game. “He lines out there to end the game and you can’t do anything more than that. You can’t direct and hit it away from people all the time. He just needs to stick to his gameplan. He’s got a good approach. I’ve seen marked improvement with what he’s doing with his work on his swing. He’s going to take off soon.”
Rookie first baseman Matt Adams has slowed since his fast start. He went 0-for-4 Tuesday, dropping him to just 6-for-44 (.136 avg) since May 29. His average has tumbled down to .244 for the season.
Craig has fallen into a slump of late as well, hitting just .194 (6-for-31) in his last nine games after going 0-for-3 on Tuesday. But he’s hardly been the problem and is still hitting .327 and has a .411 on-base percentage for the year.
One of the few positives to come out of Tuesday’s game, Holliday went 1-for-3 to raise his batting average to a season-high .283. Lost in an uncharacteristic power failure the past month, Holliday is 7-for-11 with two home runs, three doubles and six RBI in his past three games.
While the Cardinals wait for a few individuals to break out of slumps, they hope to have reinforcements arriving soon. Both Carpenter and Jay are on rehab assignments and both could rejoin the active roster within the week.
Then there is Berkman, who is expected to ramp up his rehab in St. Louis when the club returns home from their current road trip and could possibly be activated in late July.
It’s been a surprising skid for the defending champs, who are now 4.5 games behind the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central. But as they showed last year with their historic run down the stretch, plenty of time remains for them to turn it around.