Cardinals remain just a tick off

Mike Matheny's starters have a collective 4.12 ERA, 13th best in the major leagues a year after they had the best ERA. AP Photo/Tom Gannam

ST. LOUIS -- As lackluster as the St. Louis Cardinals looked Tuesday night, there were a few seconds when the stadium suddenly jolted to life, a loud crack and a ball screaming toward the right-field stands suddenly commanding everyone's attention.

Carlos Gonzalez backed up, then backed up some more and caught Matt Carpenter's fifth-inning drive with his back mere inches from the wall.

"Carp got into that ball with two guys on. [That goes] and it's a 3-3 tie game," manager Mike Matheny said. "So, that was really the only missed opportunity."

The Cardinals just haven't had their magic working this season. Without any radical overhauls, they have produced a far more productive offense than they had a season ago, but the results have been nowhere near as satisfactory, their latest loss by a score of 3-1 to the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.

In part, that's because Cardinals starting pitchers haven't matched their counterparts in well-pitched games.

Conditions were practically ideal for a ground-ball pitcher, and there was one on the mound for each team. Temperatures were in the upper 40s, it was breezy and cool. Heavy rain had fallen for two days prior. Hitters kept pounding balls into the grass on both sides and, when they connected the barrel of their bats with the ball, it inevitably died in the cool, damp air. Gonzalez hit a deep drive in the first inning that looked gone off the bat but wound up in Jeremy Hazelbaker's glove.

"They had to deal with the same conditions," Brandon Moss said. "They just got a few more hits than we did."

Colorado actually generated just one more hit than the Cardinals, seven to six, but Jaime Garcia allowed four walks, the most damaging to Mark Reynolds leading off the fourth inning. That's when the decisive runs scored. Meanwhile, the Cardinals couldn't make any headway against Chad Bettis either in the air or on the ground.

Garcia (3-3) said he was disappointed he couldn't pitch deeper into the game and credited the Rockies' lineup with laying off some close pitches.

"No excuses. I've just got to be able to get that leadoff guy and just be better than that next time," Garcia said.

Cardinals starting pitchers have a collective 4.12 ERA, 13th best in the major leagues. A season ago, they had a 2.99 ERA, easily the best in the majors.

On Wednesday, Adam Wainwright will start their rotation over, trying to get himself on track and trying to outpitch young left-hander Chris Rusin. The forecast is for better weather conditions, but these days it always seems to be something that keeps this team from finding its groove.