Home woes remain Cards' unsolved mystery

Home woes remain Cards' unsolved mystery

ST. LOUIS -- What, on paper, seemed like an available opportunity for the Cardinals to cement their position in the National League Wild Card race by knocking around a skidding A's team instead finished as more of the same. It would be Oakland, not St. Louis, that swiped the series win with a 7-4 victory in Sunday's rubber game of a three-game Interleague set.

The loss dropped the Cardinals to 30-37 at Busch Stadium, a setting that has typically engendered so much success. But after averaging 52.5 wins over manager Mike Matheny's first five seasons, the Cardinals will be fortunate merely to break .500 in this one. Doing so would require 11 wins in the team's final 14 home games.

The last time the Cardinals lost this many games at home was during a playoff-empty 2007 season. The only teams with fewer than 30 home wins this season sit in last place within their division.

It's a topic that has become stale in the Cardinals' clubhouse, only because of how often players have been asked to explain why a team that is 14 games over .500 on the road can't replicate that success at home. It's a very real concern, however, for a club still trying to generate enough momentum to sneak into the postseason for a sixth straight season.

"Every game we don't win, there's a level of frustration," Matheny said. "Home, road, it doesn't matter. We have to win every game. That's the way we're preparing. That's the expectation we have. Every one we don't get, especially the ones we felt we had a real good shot at taking, those are hard to swallow."

Since winning five of their first nine home series this year, the Cardinals have taken just three of their last 12. They've enjoyed one winning home series since the All-Star break and have won only one home series against a winning opponent all season. That came in the first week of June, when the Cardinals took two of three against the Giants.

This month has arguably been the most frustrating. The Braves and Reds, both last-place teams, plucked series wins at Busch early in August. Over the last week, the Mets and A's came and went with series wins as well.

Oddly, in between the two homestands, the Cardinals played some of their best baseball. They came home after their last road trip having won six of their last seven.

"You certainly want to win every game, whether it's at home or on the road," said Matt Carpenter, who went 3-for-4 with three extra-base hits on Sunday. "We weren't able to do that on this homestand, so it's frustrating. But you've just got to keep pushing past it and try to find a way to rack up some wins."

There hasn't been an agreed upon theory as to why the team has played so poorly at home. Players have been exhausted by the inquiries, too. Stephen Piscotty noted last week that he's "done talking about it." Brandon Moss shrugged his shoulders.

"I've got nothing," he said.

Statistically, the biggest inconsistency between the team's home and road results has been on the offensive side. The Cardinals have averaged 5.58 runs per game and 1.58 homers per game away from Busch Stadium. At home, those averages are 4.4 and 1.28, respectively.

The difference in home and road ERAs is negligible.

If there's a silver lining for the Cardinals, who hold a half-game lead for the NL's second Wild Card spot, it's this: 19 of their next 26 games will be on the road.

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