It’s now or never for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals, who have struggled to a 33-42 record at Busch Stadium, face must-win situations as they close out the regular season with seven games at Busch Stadium.
The first game of the important stretch didn’t go well Monday as the Cincinnati Reds racked up 22 hits and four home runs in a 15-2 shellacking of the Cardinals.
“That wasn’t good. That wasn’t what we were looking for,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
At stake is one of two National League wild-card berths. The Cardinals trail the New York Mets by 1 1/2 games and the San Francisco Giants by one game.
“It’s been a see-saw,” Matheny said before the game. “You win a game and you feel like you’re on top of the world. Then one goes the other way and you can feel it kick the wind out of you. That’s just going to be out how it is because you can’t help but get caught up in all of the excitement.
“I imagine it’s going to be that way all the way through. I would just love (to have) a great finish here at home for our fans and for our guys, and really play just solid, all-out baseball. Hopefully, it’s contagious for the rest of this homestand.”
It’s been a see-saw. You win a game and you feel like you’re on top of the world. Then one goes the other way and you can feel it kick the wind out of you. That’s just going to be out how it is because you can’t help but get caught up in all of the excitement.
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny
Center fielder Randal Grichuk is mentally prepared for a week of emotional thrills and spills, something the Cardinals already have experienced in recent series against San Francisco, the Colorado Rockies and the Chicago Cubs.
“The Mets and Giants are both great ballclubs,” Grichuk said. “I know the Mets have a pretty easy schedule, so yeah, it could come down to the last day. Hopefully, we can stack up some Ws and make it to some October baseball.”
The pressure will be great this week, but infielder Greg Garcia said the Cardinals have a blend of personalities that enable them to play in a relaxed state.
“We have a great group of veterans in this clubhouse that have been here before and been in tighter spots than this before,” Garcia said. “We’re just taking it day by day, game by game. We like our chances.
“I think I said it a month ago: If we win, we’re in. We don’t have to worry about what anyone else does. I don’t really are what the standings say. If we go 7-0, I like our chances of getting in the playoffs. That’s our goal. Why not? It would be a great way to end the season and (give us) great momentum into October.”
Despite the pressure to succeed, Matheny said meaningful games in late September are “exciting.”
“There’s been a lot of guys come through the major leagues who haven’t been in the situation that we’re in right now,” he said. “It’s the last week of the season and we’re right there. That’s something not to take lightly. It’s something also to focus on enjoying.
“We can’t control what other teams do. All we can control is how we play. That’s never more true than right now. Let’s have some fun and enjoy where we are because we’ve worked real hard and overcome a lot to get where we are right now. The truth is we’re in striking distance of being able to continue to play after 162 (games), and that’s very, very special.”
Reds 15, Cardinals 2
Cincinnati had 22 hits, four of them homers, and mauled St. Louis in the first game of a seven-game homestand. Jaime Garcia (10-13) allowed first-inning home runs to Joey Votto and Adam Duvall and did not return to the mound in the second.
By the numbers
The Cardinals are 1 1/2 games behind New York and one game behind San Francisco in the NL wild-card standings. ... The Reds scored seven runs on eight hits in the fourth to take a 10-0 lead. ... Duvall was 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs. Steve Selsky was 5-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs and Brandon Phillips was 4-for-5 with two RBIs. ... Yadier Molina and Jedd Gyorko had the Cardinals’ RBIs. ... Garcia lasted just one inning, the shortest outing of his career.
Adam Wainwright (12-9, 4.57 ERA) vs. Robert Stephenson (2-2, 5.59 ERA), 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.