Matheny: Cardinals offense has 'a good mix' as pitchers continue to dominate

News-DemocratMay 17, 2013 

— With a 3.06 ERA, the St. Louis Cardinals' pitching ranks first in all of baseball.

Offensively, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said there still may be room for improvement even though St. Louis entered its 5-2 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday ranked third in the National League in average (.267) and runs (184) despite being 13th of 15 in home runs with 32.

"There's some guys really in a nice spot right now and I think there's some guys who would like to be in a better one," Matheny said. "That's how you would have to look at it. You always want someone being able to get the big hits or get them in bunches for you on a particular night.

"But we have a good mix right now. We've got some guys swinging the bat exceptionally well. How often are you really going to have everybody locked in? If you have that, with the potential we have on our team, it could be pretty devastating. But there's enough guys swinging the bat well right now to give us a chance every night."

Freese's woes

Third baseman David Freese still hasn't found his groove at the plate and the season is a month and a half old.

Freese was 0-for-3 with a strikeout Thursday and is batting a paltry .209 with no homers and four RBIs in 27 games. He hasn't hit a regular-season homer in 113 at-bats.

"He's still getting closer," Matheny said. "You've just got to keep working through it. All these guys have to figure out how to get through those tough spots. They're usually better for it in the long run. It's just tough when they're in the middle of it."

Freese, unlike center fielder Jon Jay, isn't in total overhaul mode with his swing and approach. Jay reconstructed his swing three weeks ago and has been hot ever since.

"You don't see that very often," Matheny said of Jay's drastic makeover. "I think we all knew Jon Jay had a lot of movement in his setup. That was something that probably has been on the horizon for a while. David's got a pretty simple, strong base and approach. It's just timing and confidence right now."

Matheny said Freese still doesn't have the necessary "feel" at the plate to be effective.

"That's part of it that you just can't really define very well," Matheny said. "But when you've got it, you've got it. When you don't, it's like chasing a ghost. That's where Dave is right now. A little success breeds confidence and you're off and running."

Matheny lifted Freese for pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso in the ninth inning Thursday.

Wigginton's time

Ty Wigginton, signed in the offseason to provide some punch off the bench, received his fourth start of the season Thursday based on being 4-for-10 with two doubles against Jonathon Niese. But Wigginton was 0-for-3 and struck out looking once.

Wigginton batted seventh and played first base, with Allen Craig moving to left field to provide a day off for Matt Holliday.

"Giving Matt a day opens up a spot," Matheny said. "We like getting Craig in the outfield when we can. And with the lefty starting, it's not a real good opportunity for (Matt) Adams. We want to get him in a spot where we feel he has the best chance to succeed.

"Ty has done a nice job lately, so all things pointed toward him getting a chance. We've got to try to continue to do that in order for him to be effective when we put him in. But right now, it's been hard when the guys are playing well."

Miller too slow

Rookie right-hander Shelby Miller has dominated hitters on the mound this season, but he still has a flaw.

Matheny said Miller's delivery out of the stretch has become too deliberate and baserunners are capitalizing on it.

"The game before (Wednesday), he was quicker than anybody we have on our staff," Matheny said. "He was 1.04 (seconds). At one point, he almost broke the one-second mark, which is near impossible to do."

Matheny said having Yadier Molina behind the plate is a tremendous ally for Miller, but it has its limits.

"If you're (at) 1.3 or even in the low 1.4s with Yadi behind the plate, you're really flirting with danger," Matheny said. "He would throw three sub-1.2s in there, then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, he throws a 1.5 and (runners) are picking the right pitch. But (Wednesday), it was more on the high side and he occasionally showed the quick one. The thing is, his stuff is just as good velocity-wise and location-wise when he's quicker. So we've had those conversations."

Out of the stretch, Miller is capable of quick-pitching or holding the ball for up to four seconds at a time to confuse baserunners. But Matheny said he regressed in that area Wednesday, too.

"There's some guys who can't do what he does as far as vary their holds, vary their (delivery) times," Matheny said. "He can. Sometimes it takes a cheap run (to get your attention). You get lazy with two outs and give up a stolen base on a 1.6 to the plate, where Yadi or Tony (Cruz) have no chance. Then a bloop single ends up costing you a game. Usually, that's a time (pitchers) turn and say, 'I'm not going to let that happen.'"

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665.

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