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Matheny: This team has a lot of fight in them

Posted Wednesday, May 16, 2012, at 12:28 PM


ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The Cardinals busted a four game losing skid in grand fashion Tuesday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs. A tie was broken and re-tied several times before a ninth inning walk-off single from catcher Yadier Molina drove in Matt Holliday to end the game.

While normally my column is more opinionated, a couple of Tuesday interviews justified sharing some important information.

After the game, Manager Mike Matheny had a lot to say about the game, his team and some of the struggles the team has (and will have to) overcome.

To make this easier to read, here are some tidbits:

- Kyle Lohse struggled through the first inning giving up three runs before he finally stabilized and managed to put together a good outing. Matheny said that when Lohse started the day, he was attacking the strike zone, as is evident from his ball/strike count, but the Cubs were still knocking base hits out of the infield. Instead of changing his approach, as many pitchers would be tempted to do, he "stuck with the game plan" and put together a good game.

- Matt Carpenter, while only one for four on the day, hit a crucial game-tying homerun in the bottom of the eighth inning. Matheny said Carpenter's ability to pull through in the clutch is one of the many things that make him such a valuable asset.

"He's just been tough," Matheny said. "He made some real nice plays at first base today. Whether it's righties or lefties he's facing, it doesn't matter. He's improving and that's a nice sign."

- Matheny said that several factors played into the decision to pull Lance Berkman from the game and put the struggling David Freese in the lineup. 1) Freese wanted to be in the lineup. 2) Given that Berkman is just returning from an injury, to play a day game after a night game would be pushing him more than they felt was wise. 3) Berkman, since he has missed so much of the season, is still struggling with the bat and thought a day's rest might help him get going. Despite all of that, Matheny insisted he was available to pinch hit today if needed.

- In response to David Freese's current 0 for 16 slump, Matheny said he looks to be "fighting himself," but is showing signs of getting back to normal. He had several hard hit balls on Tuesday that were pulled out in great defensive plays. Don't give up on him yet. Coincidentally, the Cardinals four game skid is the first four games of Freese's mini-slump. That shows what an important role he plays on this team.

- Tyler Greene put together an impressive day going 3-for-3 with a single, a double a triple and a walk to snap an 0-for-17 streak dating back almost a week. The day left him a homerun short of the cycle (second Cardinals in five games in that situation). Matheny thinks that despite his recent slump, Greene is starting to blossom. "He has power, but it's nice to see he's putting together good short strokes," he said. "He played some good second base today, too. He's electric when he gets going. He's just, all around, a pretty impressive athlete."

- Most of all on Tuesday, Matheny was thankful for the win.

"There's no doubt we needed a win around here," he said. "These guys have been kicked in the gut, but this team has a lot of fight in them. There may be some loud music in the clubhouse and some crazy stuff on the plane, that's good because we needed some of that. These hard days like today, and even this whole homestand, it just makes makes guys tougher."

- Matt Holliday and Allen Craig both went 3-for-4 with Holliday hitting a monster homerun and, along with Greene, helped spur an offensive day similar to those seen in April.

- Jon Jay was placed on the disabled list due to "renewed shoulder discomfort" following his April shoulder separation. Outfielder Shane Robinson, after being optioned back to AAA Memphis less than 48 hours earlier, was recalled and pinch hit in the eighth inning.

The Cardinals aren't out of the woods yet as they will be facing San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia in the next week. Tuesday's game showed a glimpse of what the 2012 Cardinals are capable of and just how dangerous this lineup can be when things are working right.

This resilient bunch of athletes (no injury jokes here, please) knows what they want in 2012 and they, as well as their new manager, seem to know what it's going to take to get there: patience, perseverance and, as Matheny said, "a lot of fight."


To submit a question for the Balls & Strikes Mailbag, either e-mail cnoles@dailystatesman.com , call (573)624-4545 or fill out the form at dailystatesman.com/blogs/coreynoles/

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Corey Noles, staff writer for The Daily Statesman and Editor of The North Stoddard Countian, is the author of a regular baseball/St. Louis Cardinals column and also uses his blog to sound off on various happenings in sports. He also operates a weekly baseball mailbag column.

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