ST. LOUIS -- The first half of Mike Matheny's first year as Cardinals manager is just about done, and on Sunday, he reflected on how his club has performed and where it's heading after the All-Star break.
The Cards enter Sunday 2 1/2 games behind the National League Central-leading Pirates and a game and a half behind Cincinnati. While it's clearly not where Matheny would like to be, it's nothing to worry about either.
"I think every team holds their own destiny, and that's exactly where we are," Matheny said. "You can see pieces coming together as well as every other team. I think we're moving forward. I think some of the bullpen guys are starting to really develop into their roles and get some confidence going. Offense hasn't been a question and our starting pitching has been very consistent, so those are the components and they're all there. It's just a matter of us putting them together and doing it timely or not."
Hitting has not been an issue for Matheny's club. St. Louis is second in the Majors in average (.275) and hits (813), and third in runs (421). When exactly the Cardinals score those runs has proven a bit problematic.
St. Louis is 9-14 in one-run games this season, and 4-7 in two-run games. Statistically, one can assume that at some point, those tight decisions will start to go in the Cardinals' favor.
"We've had so many close games that we easily could have and should have won, and didn't. To me, those are going to stack up. I just think so," Matheny said. "We all have to do our part to make those things happen. It's not just going to happen automatically. Our record could be so different right now, and there's not a lot of teams that could say that."
The injury bug has not been kind to St. Louis this season, as a handful of key players are still on the mend or have missed significant time this season. Losing Chris Carpenter for the season is a clear, devastating blow. But the Cardinals are also waiting on Lance Berkman to return from knee surgery, and they were without Allen Craig and Jon Jay for a good portion of the first half.
Considering that key contributors are healthy and others will be back in the lineup shortly, Matheny sees good things in the future. He said his team has learned from adversity faced early on, and he expects good things to result from those experiences.
"What is that thing we're missing? Or do we not have it? I don't think that's the case. I just think it hasn't worked out that way," Matheny said. "We've had some growing pains. You have to grow as a team every year, regardless of people coming back or how many people are missing. You've still got to come together, and I think those are part of the pains we've gone through this year. To me, those are things that we've learned from and grown from, and now we're moving forward."