Cardinals struggling to right their ship - The Buffalo News

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Cardinals struggling to right their ship

TORONTO – It’s gotten so tough of late for the St. Louis Cardinals that Yadier Molina, one of the game’s great catchers, got the day off here Saturday because manager Mike Matheny basically admitted his All-Star is fried.

Molina is in a 2-for-21 slump and batting just .128 over his last 11 games as the Cardinals were 3-8 and had dropped to .500. Not what you would expect from the defending National League champions.

“I think he’s just beat down like a lot of guys are with the fact that we’re not playing how we should play, how we want to play and how he wants to play,” Matheny said. “I think it’s more of just a frustration that is overbearing and overwhelming when you want to win so badly and you want to do your part so badly and none of it is working.

“I see he cares so much that it’s beat him down. Anybody is susceptible to just being fried sometimes.”

The Cardinals are just 2-5 in June after Shelby Miller released some of their pressure bubble with a three-hit shutout in Saturday’s 5-0 win over the Blue Jays.

Last week, St. Louis suffered back-to-back shutout losses to San Francisco and Kansas City — and it marked the first time since 1937 it was blanked in consecutive games by six or more runs.

“We obviously haven’t been playing our best baseball, and we’re frustrated with that,” said Miller. “We know we have a lot of talent on this team and a lot of veteran guys who will pick the younger guys up. The biggest thing is trying to compete every day.”

It’s hard to repeat in baseball. Look at how the Giants seem to be on an every-other-year pattern. The Cardinals string year after year together just about better than anybody. They won the World Series in 2011, lost in Game Seven of the NLCS in San Francisco in 2012, then lost in Game Six of the World Series last October in Boston.

“It’s hard for people to understand the grind, not just the physical part but on the mental side as well,” Matheny said. “It’s not anything anybody around here expects any sympathy for. It’s a pretty good gig we have. But I don’t ever buy labeling the postseason as any sort of detriment.”

Still, you wonder how much energy is in the Cards’ tank at this point. They’ve played 47 postseason games the last three years, far more than any other team in the game.

They’ve won at least 86 games for six straight years and have had just one losing season since we turned over the century. Being 32-31 is something they’re not used to.

“We’ve been blessed with good players for a long time,” Matheny said. “There’s the expectation and the past experience of winning helps promote that into the future. Guys realized there’s a way of going about things and they can pass that on to the next group of players.”

The Cardinals entered Saturday last in the National League in home runs (32) and 10th in runs. They were hitting just .236 with runners in scoring position and led the majors in runners left on base, averaging 7.6 per game.

“There have been times we’ve scored some runs too, but we’re just not putting it all together right now,” Matheny said. “The message is we’ve got to grind because this is going to be a tough year, no matter what anybody projects or what they don’t. Right now, we are getting tougher because the kind of games we’ve had.”

The Cardinals have some recent history they can pride themselves on. In 2012, they were 35-35 on June 21 before coming within one win of the World Series.

“Whether wins or losses, they’ve been gut-wrenching for us, for our fans and for anybody who follows this club,” Matheny said. “It’s been a different type of season, but I believe those pay off in growth at some level.”

Late Saturday afternoon, the music was pounding down the hall from Matheny’s office. And that was a good sign.

“They’re still going about it right, but we need some wins,” Matheny said. “You walk in there now and the atmosphere is completely different. People want to know what’s wrong with the chemistry, what’s wrong with this or that. Well, everything comes out in the wins and losses.”

Boss Jeter?

Derek Jeter told the New York Post last week he’d be interested in channeling his inner Magic Johnson and becoming an owner, or at least a key part of an ownership group, in his post-playing days.

“Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” Jeter said. “I’d like to think I would be a good one.”

Jeter reiterated he’s not interested in going the Don Mattingly route and becoming a manager.

“I want no part of that,” he said with a smile. “Then I got to answer your questions every day.”

Rays channeling ’13 Jays

The Rays are essentially last year’s Blue Jays: a highly touted team with some underachievers at the plate and a pitching staff decimated by injuries. But no one could have envisioned a 10-game losing streak and a precipitous fall to the worst record in the game.

“It’s unbelievable,” outfielder Matt Joyce told the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s almost to the point that it’s ridiculous. We’re not a bad team; we’re really not. We have some great players who have some tremendous talent. It just seems like we have not been on the same page. It’s frustrating. It’s shocking.”

Manager Joe Maddon, ever the optimist, hasn’t given up on the season yet.

“I still believe there’s a really good finish to the season for us,” he said. “I still believe the playoffs are a possibility. I’m not just saying that, I believe that. … There’s teams you could bet on that you could almost understand it, that this could happen. … This team is too good for that. There is too much talent out there to go through this particular moment.”

Diamond dust

• Upon the death of Don Zimmer on Wednesday, Hall of Famer Johnny Bench tweeted to the official feed of the Baseball Hall of Fame: “you can put Zim’s picture next to my plaque. Buffalo&Puerto Rico he was my mgr. Can’t list all his teams and players he helped.”

Bench played under Zimmer with the Bisons in 1967. In fact, Bench’s current avatar at (@Johnny_Bench5) is a shot of him in ’67 Bisons gear, complete with the ‘B’ on his cap.

• Dodgers manager Mattingly after his team fell to 13-19 at home with Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to the White Sox: “Basically, we’re bleep. We’re just not that good. Home, away, whatever. I don’t know what that has to do with it. I really think you should talk to them. I’m tired of answering the questions, honestly.”

• The career of Johan Santana might be at an end after the 35-year-old suffered a torn Achilles while chasing a ground ball at Orioles extended spring camp. Santana, who had not pitched since 2012 with the Mets, signed a minor-league deal with the Orioles in March.

Minor matters

• A huge week for the Bisons at the gate between School Kids Day on Thursday and Saturday’s sold-out Star Wars Night. The crowd of 15,361 for the Kids Day win over Toledo pushed the total attendance for the promotion since 1988 to 498,579, an average of 14,464 for the 34 games (there were two of them in the early years of the ballpark).

• The Rochester Red Wings won their 30th game prior to June 1 for just the fifth time since 1980. According to Jim Mandelaro of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, that’s a pretty good omen. The reason? When it happened in 1988, 1990 and 1997, Rochester won the Governors’ Cup and when it happened in 2006, the Wings lost Game Five of the IL finals at Toledo.

• Canisius product Sean Jamieson, a utility man with Double-A Mobile in the Diamondbacks chain, has been named to the South Division team for the Southern League All-Star Game July 17 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Jamieson, a 17th-round pick of Oakland in 2011, was traded for Stephen Drew in 2012. He entered the weekend batting .283 with three homers and 17 RBIs.


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