Cards head home after productive road trip

Off night vs. De La Rosa in series finale in Arizona doesn't dampen mood

Cards head home after productive road trip

PHOENIX -- The Cardinals were already perturbed by the late start time scheduled for their getaway day in Arizona, with manager Mike Matheny going as far as calling it "ridiculous." His club's travel plans were unexpectedly aided by the fact that it played its quickest game of the season, though even that did little to placate any frustration.

That's because the brisk affair at Chase Field on Thursday was made possible by an offense that got almost nothing going against Rubby De La Rosa. Matheny described the D-backs right-hander as "as good as I've ever seen him" after watching his club be held to three hits in a 3-0 loss that ended its seven-game road trip.

"His fastball, I felt it played harder than it has in the past," noted Matt Adams, who drew one of the two walks De La Rosa issued. "He kept us off balance, and made pitches when he needed to. He was just locating."

The Cardinals were especially surprised to see radar gun readings of 96 and 97 mph for De La Rosa, who had an average velocity of 94.7 mph on that pitch in his previous starts. That unexpected zip helped De La Rosa to 10 strikeouts, making him the third starting pitcher to total double-digit strikeouts against the Cards this month.

"I felt his like his fastball had a little bite more movement than maybe I was anticipating," said Stephen Piscotty, whose third-inning single was the last hit the Cardinals got in De La Rosa's seven-inning start. "You have to tip your cap, though I think we're better than what we showed. Even if he is doing that, we can still hit and be productive."

The offense's quiet exit from Chase Field was in stark contrast to the rest of this road trip, one the Cardinals still concluded with a winning record. Leading into Thursday's series finale, the club had scored seven or more runs in five straight games and had homered in seven consecutive contests.

The Cardinals return home leading the Majors in runs scored with 137 despite being shut out for the second time this season. And they remain tied for second with 33 home runs, 11 of which were hit during this swing through San Diego and Arizona.

"I like the approach guys are taking, not that it's any different than the approach we had in the past," Matheny said. "We want them to drive the ball all the time, and they're making good passes at the ball."

This offense, which has been feasting against some less-than-stellar pitching, will get one of its best tests this weekend in welcoming the Nationals to town. The series will be bookended with starts by a former No.1 overall pick (Stephen Strasburg) and a Cy Young Award winner (Max Scherzer).

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.