09/27/12 1:51 AM ET
Cards seek cure to Beltran's hitting woes
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
That could come, manager Mike Matheny said on Wednesday, but not until after a postseason berth is definitively clinched. The Cardinals entered Wednesday sitting 4 1/2 games in front of the Dodgers and Brewers for the final NL postseason spot with a week left in the regular season.
"We have to win," Matheny said. "That's all we're thinking about, is winning. We're going to throw the guys out there each night that we feel give us the best chance. This isn't trying to get some rest time."
The situation with right fielder Carlos Beltran, however, is being handled a bit differently. Describing a need not to get Beltran rested, but to get him fixed, manager Mike Matheny kept the veteran outfielder out of Wednesday's starting lineup.
Beltran, who pinch-hit in the eighth inning on Wednesday and grounded out, went 0-for-9 in the series, part of a second half in which he's hit just .225. After driving in 65 runs prior to the All-Star break, Beltran has 26 RBIs since. He insisted after Tuesday's game that he is not currently bothered by injury, but has been open about the trouble he's had in getting his timing right.
"This is a kind of guy that could absolutely throw us on his shoulders and carry us," Matheny said. "But right now he's really struggling and fighting. When we have conversations, it's breaking him apart that he's not doing what he knows he can do right now, even if he doesn't show it. He's putting so much on his shoulders right now."
Cardinals mum on postseason planning
HOUSTON -- Manager Mike Matheny has stressed a one-day-at-a-time approach with his club since the start of the year, and he has no intention of veering away from that as the final week of the season approaches.
While other clubs have already discussed postseason pitching rotations and roster decisions, the Cardinals intend to remain free of speculation until they know, for sure, that they have advanced.
"I know my predecessor talked a lot about the edge, having that edge, and not doing anything to compromise one that you might have," Matheny said, referring to Tony La Russa. "An edge we have right now is that we're playing well. To start getting our minds somewhere else besides what has been effective for us -- and what has been effective for us is bland and boring and no fun to write about -- but it works for us. And it works for me."
On Wednesday alone, Matheny steered away from questions about how (or even if) there would be a champagne celebration should the team win a Wild Card, as well as how a playoff berth would cap his rookie season at the helm.
He also would not confirm that Kyle Lohse would start the winner-take-all Wild Card game, even though the rotation currently lines up that way. Even without confirmation, it is hard to envision anyone on the staff earning that start over Lohse, who has been the club's most consistent pitcher this year.
Lohse said he has not been told about a potential Wild Card assignment. The Braves have already announced that Kris Medlen will be their pitcher in that game, assuming Atlanta does not catch the Nationals in the NL East.
"I'm not going to make any apologies for us, right now. We can't get too far focused," Matheny said. "We've got today. I've been saying it all season, but I believe it's more relevant now than ever before that we have to focus on today. That stuff, you guys know well enough by now, that we don't just come up with something on the last minute.
"We've done some preparation [with the rotation order]. But any talk of stuff beyond today, to me, is taking us in the opposite direction of where we need to go."
Freese pushing for weekend return to lineup
HOUSTON -- Though his right ankle remained wrapped, David Freese pushed himself through some baseball activities on Wednesday. That's certainly good news for the Cardinals, who will finish this series in Houston without Freese ever taking the field.
Freese took swings off a tee in the batting cage on Wednesday afternoon before doing some running on the field. He will spend time at Busch Stadium on Thursday -- a team off-day -- for additional treatment and strength tests. He described his ankle as "less sore" than it was a day earlier.
A return to the field during the upcoming home series against the Nationals has not been ruled out for Freese, who suffered the mild ankle sprain when his foot got caught in a soft spot of the batting cage floor on Monday. He walked around the clubhouse on Wednesday without appearing to limp.
Matheny's decision to stick with Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma as his regular middle infielders continues to cost Skip Schumaker playing time. And that dearth of at-bats seems to be showing in the results. Schumaker, out of the lineup again on Wednesday, has just one hit in his last 15 at-bats. This month, he is 8-for-46.
"Skip is a huge part of this club. We need to get him right," Matheny said. "There's no question. But once again, we've really got to go with what we feel is going to give us our best chance today, and some guys are going to wind up on the short end of that.
"I think it's a balance of the two. We know what Skip can do, and it's just a matter of getting him the opportunity. Right now, we've got a nice thing going with Danny and he's done a real nice job."
The Cardinals will face starters Edwin Jackson (9-10, 3.77 ERA), Jordan Zimmermann (12-8, 2.90 ERA) and Ross Detwiler (10-7, 3.28 ERA) during the Nationals' upcoming visit to Busch Stadium.
Washington manager Davey Johnson has already stated that he will rest several of his starting position players should the Nationals clinch the National League East title with games remaining on their schedule. That scenario could come into play over the weekend.
The Cardinals' 10-game winning streak over the Astros entering Wednesday is their longest against one team since winning 10 in a row over the Dodgers from 2005-07.
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.