05/08/2013 8:04 PM ET
Attendance begs questions about Cards-Cubs rivalry
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- With roots dating back to the 19th century, the Cardinals-Cubs rivalry has long been considered one of baseball's most famed. But with the Cardinals having developed additional division rivalries and the Cubs in a rebuilding mode, is this rivalry losing some luster?
The Cardinals' two-game series at Wrigley Field drew just 56,515 fans, an average of 28,258 per game. That's substantially below the ballpark's current capacity (41,019) and more than 4,000 fewer than the Cubs' season average through its first 18 home dates.
Wednesday's announced attendance -- which counts tickets sold, not turnstile numbers -- of 26,354 was the lowest for a Cubs-Cardinals game at Wrigley Field since a May 1, 1998, game in which 25,598 tickets were sold.
"I didn't even really notice," said manager Mike Matheny when told of the low attendance. "It always seems to be pretty intense. That was a typical game for me in Chicago -- where it's tight, anything can happen at any moment. That's always been what I expected here and what I'll probably continue to expect here."
The waning attendance is not a new phenomenon. After drawing an average of 41,227 fans to six Cubs-Cardinals games at Wrigley Field in 2008, the average game attendance dropped each of the next four years. Last season, the Cubs averaged 37,324 when the Cardinals were in in town.
It is imperative to note, though, that the drop in series attendance figures does also coincide with an overall decrease in attendance at Wrigley Field since the 2008 season. That's largely explained by the Cubs' performance in recent years, because this is a team that has finished fifth in the division each of the past three seasons.
In the meantime, the Cardinals have seen a pair of other division teams -- the Reds and Brewers -- rise in rivalry status during that time span. That's not to suggest that Cardinals' rivalry with the Cubs is disappearing, but it certainly isn't anywhere near its peak.
"It all comes back to what's been the standing tradition," Matheny said. "And this is a long-standing tradition rivalry compared to the other ones that have been formed."
Craig appears to have rediscovered power stroke
CHICAGO -- After opening the season with a homerless drought that extended 27 games and 110 at-bats, Allen Craig believes some recent tweaks to his approach can help him sustain the power output that has resurfaced over the past few days.
Craig blasted his first home run of the season against the Brewers on Saturday; eight at-bats later, he hit another, a leadoff shot in the second inning on Tuesday.
"Sometimes you just need to do it once so you can get the feeling," Craig said. "I think it took some time to get my timing back. I was hitting some balls hard before, it just wasn't enough."
Craig hit 22 home runs a year ago, averaging one every 21.3 at-bats. He never went more than 10 straight games in 2012 without going deep.
The return of his power stroke coincides with some pointed work that Craig did to get the path of his swing back to where he felt it needed to be. Craig said he has shortened his swing a bit and has discovered that the tweak has put him in a better position to square up on pitches over the middle-inside part of the plate.
Though his home run total lagged early, Craig has not suffered from a lack of overall production. Entering Wednesday's action, he ranked fifth in the National League with 26 RBIs and tied for fifth with 10 doubles. He's batting .412 with runners in scoring position, the seventh-best mark in the NL.
"He's a guy who can hit. We know that," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's a guy who can put together a big at-bat in a big situation. He seems to thrive with guys in scoring position. Those are signs of just a good all-around hitter with a good approach. He doesn't have that long of a track record, but the track record is long enough to show you that the production is going to be there. It was just a matter of not overthinking what was going on."
Cancer survivor tabbed as Cards Honorary Bat Girl
CHICAGO -- Kathy Day, a Cardinals fan and cancer survivor, was named as one of the winners of Major League Baseball's Honorary Bat Girl contest, which honors women who have survived breast cancer and have become advocates for finding a cure for the disease.
Day was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer in 1996, and the disease returned twice, a byproduct of her initial radiation treatment. She has also battled melanoma, throat cancer and tongue cancer. Day lost her hearing because of a side effect from one of the chemotherapy treatments.
She describes her family as "lifelong Cardinals fans" and will be recognized during an on-field ceremony on Sunday, which is Mother's Day. Day will receive pink MLB merchandise and a pair of tickets to the Cardinals' 1:15 p.m. CT game against the Rockies.
With the assistance of several player judges, MLB selected an Honorary Bat Girl from each of the 30 clubs. Players and on-field personnel will also show their support for breast cancer awareness by sporting pink wristbands -- and in some cases, using pink bats -- on Mother's Day.
• Though manager Mike Matheny started the same eight position players for each of the two games against the Cubs, he bumped Jon Jay into the six-hole on Wednesday, one slot above third baseman David Freese. Matheny said several factors were behind the batting-order flip-flop, including the desire to have Jay -- who entered Wednesday 9-for-17 on the road trip -- serve as protection behind Yadier Molina.
• After an off-day on Thursday, the Cardinals will welcome the Rockies to town for a three-game series. Colorado is scheduled to start Jon Garland (2-2, 4.75 ERA) on Friday, Jhoulys Chacin (3-1, 2.56 ERA) on Saturday and Jorge De La Rosa (3-3, 3.52 ERA) on Sunday.
• Mitchell Boggs and Marc Rzepczynski made scoreless relief appearances in Triple-A Memphis' 3-2 win over Sacramento on Tuesday. Kolten Wong and Brock Peterson each had two hits in the game.
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.