Cardinals' power drought continues in July
Redbirds lead NL in runs, but have only 83 homers after hitting 159 in 2012
ST. LOUIS -- A Cardinals offense that returned five players who hit at least 20 homers a year ago just wrapped up a July that featured some of the lowest power numbers in franchise history.
In 25 games, the Cardinals hit nine home runs, averaging one every 93 at-bats. For comparison sake, consider that Alfonso Soriano, now of the Yankees, hit nine in his 91 at-bats during the month. Texas' Adrian Beltre matched the Cardinals' total, too.
Only four previous times in team history have the Cardinals hit fewer July home runs. The 1933 club hit just five. The Cards finished with eight in 1949, 1968 and 1986. This last month, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday led the team with two home runs apiece. Molina, who is now on the disabled list, is the only one who has gone deep since July 10.
"I spent a lot of time listening to [former hitting coach] Mark [McGwire] and [then-assistant hitting coach] John [Mabry] talk last year about kind of the philosophy and approach. It's basically what we're doing this year," manager Mike Matheny said. "There's not a different agenda. There's not a different game plan. But for whatever reason, yeah, we're not seeing the power numbers. But we are getting the production numbers, and the offense has done very well. There's certainly no reason to start throwing alarm out there to these guys to do anything different."
With 83 home runs this season, the Cardinals have hit the fewest through 106 games since the 1995 team tallied only 75. It puts the Cards on pace to finish the year with 129. They hit 159 in 2012. Only two players (Carlos Beltran and Holliday) are on a pace to hit 20, though Beltran hasn't hit a home run since June. He leads the team with 19.
The spotlight on the power drought has been a bit brighter lately, mostly because of the Cardinals' recent difficulties to score runs. Overall, though, the Cards have compensated for the lack of power with incredible success hitting with runners in scoring position. That's why the team, despite ranking 13th in the NL in home runs heading into Thursday's game, still tops the league with 505 runs scored.
"You can't try to hit home runs. It doesn't work like that," said Holliday, who has hit 13. "There's no way to explain why home runs are happening at a high rate or not. There's no philosophical change. That's been the strength of our team is that we have good, tough outs. The way to score runs is to get people on base and hit with runners in scoring position. Part of our strength is that we don't have a lot of guys trying to hit home runs and then striking out a lot."
Matheny taking care to monitor Carpenter
PITTSBURGH -- Manager Mike Matheny has talked a lot lately about finding ways to get his players rest. He sits Carlos Beltran from time to time, hopeful that those days off now will translate into more production later. For Shelby Miller, the insertion of a 12-day break between starts last month was designed to address an innings and workload concern.
No one on the Cardinals' roster, though, has been worked harder than second baseman Matt Carpenter, who is playing through his first full season as an everyday Major Leaguer at a position he had never played a year ago. Carpenter has started as many games (99) as anyone on the roster, and that comes after he took little time off over the winter.
All of that work, coupled with his 2-for-24 skid, prompted Matheny to rest him on Wednesday, and Carpenter may also require careful monitoring moving forward.
"When you play so many games in a row -- especially with how some of these games have gone, the close nature and some of the disappointment at the end -- those really wear on guys," Matheny said. "Every once and a while, coming in with a little different routine can help them carry on for a while. For the most part, you don't want to get in the way of their routine, especially if they're being successful. I haven't been seeing much fatigue from Matt. I just saw the grind of a long season and being one of those guys who has hit a lot of hard line drives at people. That just turns into frustration."
Though he leads the National League in multihit games, with 40, Carpenter has been slow to find his footing since the All-Star break. He does not, however, equate a dip in results with fatigue. He said that he has changed his pregame routine from last year to this in order to account for the increased playing time.
That includes cutting down on the running, lifting, and time in the batting cage, knowing that his energy now needs to be better conserved.
"This year I developed a routine where I'm in [the batting cage] before the game, I'm still putting in a ton of work, but I'm trying to maximize the quality as opposed to the quantity and then being able to preserve that energy for when the game starts," Carpenter said. "A lot of this is unknown for me. I've never played 162 games before. I'm trying to learn what works and trying to stay as fresh as possible."
And how does he feel this far into the season?
"I feel great right now."
Cardinals not concerned about losing streak
PITTSBURGH -- The Cardinals' seven-game losing streak, though it has cost them five games in the division standings, has hardly cloaked the clubhouse with concern. That's because some of the most successful Cardinals teams in recent memory had stretches that were just as bad.
The 2011 club won the World Series after enduring a seven-game losing streak in June of that season. In 2006 the Cardinals went on to be World Series champs after twice trudging through eight-game skids. Two other times (1987 and 1930), the Cardinals advanced to the Fall Classic despite having a losing streak of at least seven games.
In other words, one bad week does not necessarily doom a season.
"As long as I haven't been here, this team hasn't panicked, and I'm sure that has gone on for years," David Freese said. "We're blessed with what we're able to do. We just go out there and bust our tails and see who wins. Lately, we haven't won too much."
Before this stretch, the Cardinals had not lost more than three in a row all season. And despite closing July with seven straight losses, they still finished the month with a winning record (13-12).
"You play 162 games, at some point in the season, every year, no matter what, you always go through a little rough patch," Adam Wainwright said. "The good teams find a way to get out of that rough patch and back to playing good quality baseball. That's what we're going to do."
• On Thursday, one day after announcing that MRIs found no structural damage in Yadier Molina's right knee and Shane Robinson's right shoulder, the Cardinals did not have additional updates on either player. For now the two have been prescribed rest until further evaluation. Neither is expected to rejoin the Cardinals during this road trip.
• The Cardinals are slated to face the following starters during their upcoming visit to Cincinnati: Bronson Arroyo (9-8, 3.26 ERA) on Friday, Tony Cingrani (4-1, 2.90 ERA) on Saturday and Mike Leake (10-4, 2.59 ERA) on Sunday. The Cardinals have won each of their three series against the Reds this season, including one in Cincinnati.
• Left fielder Matt Holliday confirmed that he does not believe that a fan interfered with his ability to make a catch at the wall during Tuesday night's loss to the Pirates. Despite some speculation that a fan may have hit his arm as he tried to make the catch, Holliday said he believes his glove just hit the man's chest. The ball bounced out of his glove and into the seats for a two-run homer.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.