Allen Craig and David Freese got the Cardinals started with back-to-back doubles in the second to put St. Louis up, 1-0. The two were at it again the next inning, as Craig doubled and Freese drove him in with his 14th homer of the year on an 0-1 pitch. Freese now has six multihit games in June.
"Even his outs were hard," Matheny said.
Both Freese's double and homer were hit to nearly the same spot in right-center. Matheny said when Freese is driving balls hard the other way, you can tell he's at his best.
"We always talk about putting a good swing on it and if you pull it, you pull it. If it goes to right, it goes to right. But you want to hit it where it's pitched," Freese said. "I think we're strong enough to where you can pull inside pitches and drive it, but it's just about putting good swings on it, hitting balls that you can drive."
Matheny said he could tell from watching Freese take batting practice before Thursday's game that his third baseman was primed to have a big day. Balls continually soaring into and over the Cardinals' bullpen in right-center field on effortless swings from Freese was a sign of good things to come.
Freese, however, doesn't put much stock into his performance in batting practice. It simply came down to not trying to do too much once he got to the plate.
"It sounds easy, but sometimes you get in that box and you want to be Superman," Freese said. "That's just not gonna help you out. Stay with your plan and try and execute."
The Cardinals added more runs with two outs in the fifth. Matt Adams worked a full count with the bases loaded before hitting a two-RBI line drive that bounced in front of center fielder Alejandro De Aza for a single.
Adams began his night with a pair of strikeouts. For him to make the necessary changes at the plate and come back even more confident later in the game is something Matheny said isn't very common in 23-year-old rookies fighting for playing time.
"I really applaud his adjustment," Matheny said. "He goes up his first two at-bats and looks like he's not picking the ball up. And he comes up his third at-bat in a big situation and you think he might even try hard and swing more, but he slowed everything down."
"I told myself to try and relax and see the ball as good as I can," Adams said. "The first few pitches of that third at-bat I saw the ball good, and I got locked in."
St. Louis' offensive spark provided just enough support for starter Jake Westbrook, who turned in his best outing since the first week of the year and picked up his first win since May 8.
Westbrook had retired the first 12 batters he faced before Paul Konerko got Chicago's first hit in the fifth. Westbrook went six innings, and allowed three runs on five hits without walking a batter. He had lasted five innings or less in four of his last six outings.
Westbrook's only damage was a three-run homer by Adam Dunn in the sixth. Westbrook had left that pitch up to Dunn, but was successful for most of his night by keeping the ball down in the zone.
"He was mixing," Dunn said. "When he's going good, he's getting a lot of ground balls. He had a good sinker tonight. His cutter was good. He just kind of kept us off balance and made his hit the ball on the ground."
Said Westbrook: "It's always mechanical. It's just a matter of finding that arm slot, finding that release point and repeating it. The last couple ballgames, I've gotten back to that a little bit. It's just a matter of completing ballgames and doing a better job than I did tonight as far as getting deeper into the game."
Eduardo Sanchez, Victor Marte, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte didn't allow a hit in relief for St. Louis, with Motte earning his 13th save of the season.
"We've got a pretty good feel with this bullpen right now, and they're confident," Matheny said. "We need to take advantage of that right now. We don't necessarily have to push a starter like we have at other times this season."
The Cardinals have been teetering around .500 ball for a couple weeks now, causing many to ask, what's going on here?
But inside the Cardinals' clubhouse there is no sign of panic. As Freese put it, having ups and downs is simply a part of the game.
"There's a lot of people out there that don't understand that," Freese said. "In this clubhouse we know what a season's like, and what a season can do to you. You just have to grind it out. We're right in the thick of things and that's where we want to be."