A difficult assignment looms for the St. Louis Cardinals with a nine-game trip to Detroit, Kansas City and Miami.
The Cardinals (33-32) on Sunday lost to Kansas City 5-3 in 15 innings, concluding a 4-5 homestand.
Ragged play occasionally reared its head. Baserunning miscues, pitching meltdowns and defensive lapses have occurred far too frequently for the Cardinals, who have tumbled to five games behind Cincinnati in the National League Central.
"It's all about winning series," Cardinals infielder Tyler Greene said Sunday, repeating one of former manager Tony La Russa's favorite mantras. "If we can come back these next three series, we'll be right back on track."
The Tigers (32-34), whom the Cardinals meet at 6:05 p.m. Tuesday, will offer little relief, particularly with defending American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award-winner Justin Verlander on the mound.
Verlander (6-4. 2.66 ERA), however, will be opposed by the Cardinals' best pitcher, Lance Lynn (10-2, 2.42 ERA). Both are expected to represent their respective league in the All-Star Game on July 10 at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Lynn never has faced the Tigers. In fact, the only Detroit hitter he has opposed is Prince Fielder, and that was for just one at-bat when Fielder was with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Verlander is 2-1 with a 5.50 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals. Catcher Yadier Molina (5-for-7, three doubles, four RBIs), left fielder Matt Holliday (2-for-4) and second baseman/outfielder Skip Schumaker (2-for-3, one double, one RBI) have had success against the hard-throwing right-hander.
Holliday, however, is nursing a leg injury and the Cardinals were unsure Sunday of its severity. Holliday was removed from the game for pinch-runner Jake Westbrook.
Schumaker could return Tuesday from his rehab assignment at Class AAA Memphis. If he's back, he's likely to start in center.
Schumaker, recovering from a strained right hamstring, is 3-for-8 with two doubles and two RBIs in three games at Memphis.
The Cardinals also could soon welcome back infielder Matt Carpenter, on the mend from a strained right oblique. Carpenter's progress is slightly behind Schumaker's, but he is expected to be healthy enough to join the team on the trip.
Carpenter is 1-for-7 in three rehab games at Memphis.
First baseman Fielder is enjoying a solid season for the Tigers, his first in Detroit, batting .315 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs. Third baseman Miguel Cabrera is batting .310 with 14 homers and 54 RBIs. Center fielder Austin Jackson is a spark at the top of the order, batting .323 with seven homers and six stolen bases.
Former Cardinals catcher Gerald Laird has logged most of the playing time in June for Detroit and is batting .296 with two homers.
Other pitching pairings in the series are: Westbrook (5-6, 4.27 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (4-4, 5.18 ERA), 6 p.m. Wednesday; and Kyle Lohse (6-2, 2.98 ERA) vs. 21-year-old St. Louis native Jacob Turner (season debut), 12:05 p.m. Thursday.
Turner graduated from Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, the same school from which Tate Matheny, Mike Matheny's son, recently graduated. Tate Matheny was taken by the Cardinals in the 23rd round of the draft two weeks ago.
Turner, the Tigers' first-round pick in the 2009 draft (ninth overall), was 2-1 with a 3.43 ERA in seven starts at Class AAA Toledo before being promoted to the big-league level.
The Cardinals still aren't hitting consistently enough to overcome shortcomings in other areas.
St. Louis scored three or fewer runs in seven games of the homestand. The Cardinals batted .267 (83-for-311), and 61 of the hits were singles. They grounded into 11 double plays.
"You can't expect these guys to score 10 every night," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said after the game Sunday, referring to his team's 10-7 win on Saturday. "You've got to find ways to win when you can't score a bunch of runs."
Allen Craig isn't worried about the offense.
"We're out there giving it our best shot and taking good at-bats," Craig said. "Overall, we're doing OK."