Cardinals look to end home losing streak vs. Reds

As Friday the 13ths go, this one was particularly bad for the St. Louis Cardinals.

After manager Mike Matheny, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak and two players claimed the clubhouse wasn’t as contentious and disconnected as midweek stories made it appear to be, St. Louis suffered its fifth straight home loss with a 9-1 thumping at the the Cincinnati Reds‘ hands.

The Cardinals, who remained 6 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the National League Central, will try to gain traction Saturday when they again host Cincinnati in Busch Stadium.

Their clubhouse hasn’t exactly been humming bars from Kumbaya lately, according to a story in The Athletic that detailed rookie reliever Jordan Hicks‘ discomfort with the actions of veteran closer Bud Norris. It said Norris was “mercilessly riding” the 21-year-old Hicks.

“The fact that I’m having to sit here talking about culture means it has become a topic and one we have to address,” Mozeliak told mlb.com. “I don’t want to come across as defensive or trying to defend everything we try to do because far be it from us to say that we’re a perfect situation. But I still think we’re a very desirable place to be.”

There was nothing desirable about St. Louis’ performance in the series opener. It fell behind before the top of the first inning ended, it never looked capable of making up an increasing deficit and a sellout crowd fled for the exits after a five-run seventh inning ended the competitive phase.

The Cardinals (47-45) have lost 14 of their last 23 home games. That includes series losses to some of the worst teams in baseball, such as Kansas City, Miami and San Diego.

“We come out and play every day like it’s the last day you’re going to play,” Matheny said, “but you’re going to have games that don’t go the way you want to. There were enough negatives today that we couldn’t work our way out of it.” St. Louis will turn to rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-4, 3.34) to cool off the surging Reds (42-52), who have won 20 of their last 29 games. Flaherty has followed up a 13-strikeout outing against Milwaukee on June 22 with three shaky starts, permitting 11 runs in 12 1/3 innings during that span.

Flaherty lasted only 2 1/3 innings Sunday in a no-decision at San Francisco, yielding four hits and three runs in his team’s 13-8 loss. He faced Cincinnati twice last September, going 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA in 6 1/3 innings.

Luis Castillo (5-8, 5.58) takes the ball for the Reds, fresh off a short outing Sunday at the Chicago Cubs in which he pitched four innings and gave up three runs in Cincinnati’s 6-5, 10-inning defeat. Castillo is 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals.

The Reds are not only rolling on the field but off it. Second baseman Scooter Gennett, the subject of trade rumors, is instead closer to a contract extension than being shipped to a contender, according to one report on Friday.

“I feel like, just from what I’ve been told, they want me here for the long term,” Gennett told mlb.com.