(BaseballStL) — Despite a 2-4 road trip, the Cardinals returned home just two games out of first in the Central heading into Thursday.
In a season that has seen St. Louis win four or more games in a row only three times, parity in the division has kept the race within reach.
“It’s encouraging in the fact that we haven’t played great baseball for an extended period of time. We haven’t had one of those long runs that many other teams have,” Mike Matheny said. “I think just statistically that tends to happen for most clubs and it’s nice we’ve been able to stay where we are.”
Despite sitting atop the standings for most of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers have been unable to distance themselves as the rest of the Central clawed for ground. Instead, their five game lead over the Birds heading into the All Star break was reduced to just one. Since then, they have been unable to put the Cardinals away, something Matheny said is fortunate, but also meaningless if his club can’t get into rhythm.
“Another team could take off on that and if we don’t show a little more consistency there could be some gaps that would be hard to overcome,” he said.
The Cardinals play the Brewers seven more times before the season’s end and have the same amount against the Pirates, who are tied with them in the standings.
After getting a hit in seven straight games, big-swinging prospect Oscar Taveras has cooled considerably.
Since that stretch, he’s gone 2-for-21, walking once and striking out six times. Neither hit resulted in an RBI, and the skid has dropped his average to .206.
“He’s got a lot to learn. He’s got a lot of things that he needs to improve on in every aspect of his game,” Mike Matheny said. “I think it’s just part of being a young player.”
The manager said his young outfielder is eager to learn and taking lessons with enthusiasm as he acclimates to the league.
Taveras gets Thursday off against lefty Eric Stults, with Shane Robinson starting in right and Peter Bourjos getting a turn in center.
“He can view it as a day off or he can view it as an opportunity to get better just like any one of our guys,” Matheny said.
Taveras has shown raw power at the plate, with two homers and five doubles, but the 22-year-old is still very much a work in progress. He has struck out in 15 percent of his plate appearances and of his 29 hits, 22 are singles.
“He gets it. But getting it and applying it those are all steps,” Matheny added.
1) Matt Carpenter 3B
2) Peter Bourjos CF
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Matt Adams 1B
5) Jhonny Peralta SS
6) Mark Ellis 2B
7) Shane Robinson RF
8) Tony Cruz C
9) John Lackey P