HOUSTON -- The Cardinals had struck out 60 times in their last six games before Thursday. Manager Mike Matheny said his players know that they need to be making better contact.

"That's a long walk back, when you leave the plate back to the dugout and realize that if you put the ball in play, good things can happen," Matheny said. "You put pressure on the defense. They know that. It's not something that needs to be pounded, but it is also something that's addressed."

Hitting coach Mark McGwire and assistant hitting coach John Mabry have talked with the hitters about the problem, but it's clear that the Cardinals aren't stressing out over a bad stretch at the plate.

"I think we go back to the approach we had earlier in the season when we were really patient for mistakes and not missing many that came in the zone," Matheny said. "You can't expect us to keep with that all season with execution, but certainly with mindset."

The Cardinals struck out 15 times on Wednesday, but Matheny said that was more a product of a wide strike zone.

"You get put in a tough spot sometimes," Matheny said.

Cards place Garcia on DL, bring back Salas

STL@SF: Garcia fans nine over 7 1/3 dominant innings

HOUSTON -- Manager Mike Matheny wasn't happy that the Cardinals had to place Jaime Garcia on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain on Thursday, but there is a silver lining: being able to call up right-handed reliever Fernando Salas.

"The bullpen could use some help," Matheny said. "Kind of thought that may happen with Jamie. He just needs a little time to get some more tests done and just get to the issue and figure out what's going on."

The Cardinals brought up Salas from Triple-A Memphis before Thursday's game against the Astros and was available to pitch. Salas was optioned to Triple-A on May 26. With Memphis, Salas was 1-0 with a save, giving up four runs and six hits in four innings. He also struck out five.

"He'll be used," Matheny said. "We're excited to get him back."

The bullpen has been especially stretched in the first two games of the series with the Astros. Garcia only went two innings on Tuesday, forcing Maikel Cleto, Sam Freeman, Victor Marte and Mitchell Boggs to get the final 18 outs.

On Wednesday, Adam Wainwright went 5 2/3 innings, but the Cardinals used five relievers -- Marte, Eduardo Sanchez, Marc Rzepczynski, Boggs and Jason Motte -- to finish off the victory.

Other than Salas, any reliever that comes in Thursday's game will have pitched on either Tuesday or Wednesday. Marte and Boggs pitched in both.

Matheny didn't want to say who might fill Garcia's spot in the rotation on Sunday. When asked if he thought the Cardinals would need to make a roster move before Sunday, Matheny suggested that the spot may be filled with somebody already on the roster.

"We've got some ideas, but right now, we'll just go with the extra pitcher in the [bullpen] and figure that out as we get closer," Matheny said.

Worth noting

• With Thursday's game, the Cardinals end a 10-game, 11-day road trip, their longest of the season. Manager Mike Matheny said his team is ready to get home.

"It's been a long one. It felt extra long," Matheny said. "Always glad to get home."

Matheny said road trips pretty much feel the same as a manager as they did as a player, save the physical fatigue he felt as a catcher.

• Shortstop Rafael Furcal, making his 11th start in a row on Thursday, will probably get a day off soon, but Matheny said the Cardinals will wait to make an adjustment until they feel Furcal doesn't look or feel right.

• Carlos Beltran entered Thursday's game with a .194 batting average on the road trip. He also has just one RBI since leaving St. Louis.