Ask St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa why his team is slumping and he’ll tell you its been a team effort.
The Cardinals look to avoid being swept by their cross-state rivals when they wrap up their interleague series against the Kanas City Royals on Sunday.
The Royals (27-52) have never swept a three-game set from the Cardinals (43-36) on the road. Kansas City’s only sweep of St. Louis came at home from June 12-14, 2001.
With an 8-7, 11-inning loss Saturday, St. Louis suffered its 11th loss in 12 games—including two straight to the team with the worst record in baseball.
“We’re losing with our bullpen, we’re losing with managing,” La Russa said. “Our offense is not scoring. Why would you pick on our rotation? We’re all losing.”
The Cardinals’ struggles started June 20 with a 20-6 drubbing by the defending World Series champion Chicago White Sox. In the last 11 games, St. Louis starters have pitched into the eighth inning just once while posting an 8.11 ERA.
The bullpen also has been tagged for 32 runs and 46 hits—including seven homers—in 36 2-3 innings, and they’ve failed to record a save in three tries.
St. Louis has hit only 10 homers and scored just 45 runs over the last 11 games. Since returning from the disabled list on June 22, reigning NL MVP Albert Pujols is hitting .342 (13-for-38), but has only one homer and three RBIs.
Despite struggling, the Cardinals still occupy first place in the NL Central by only one percentage point over Cincinnati.
La Russa will send Jason Marquis (9-6, 5.82 ERA) to the mound even though his last two starts have mirrored St. Louis’ pitching woes. In losses to the White Sox and Cleveland, the right-hander has surrendered 20 runs and 23 hits, including seven homers, for a 16.36 ERA.
“I felt great, I had a lot of life on my ball,” said Marquis, whose 19 homers allowed ties him with Atlanta’s Jorge Sosa for the NL lead. “A couple of times, bad pitch selection, and a couple of times bad pitch location.”
Marquis defeated the Royals in his only career start against them in 2004.
One player St. Louis will be happy to see leave is Royals catcher Mark Teahen. His solo homer in the eighth inning off Adam Wainwright Friday tied the score at 5, and Kansas City (27-53) went on to a 7-5 victory in 10 innings.
Teahen hit another solo homer off closer Jason Isringhausen to lift the Royals to their ninth win in 12 games.
“I’d like to (stay),” said Teahen, who equaled a career-high with four RBIs. “It’s been pretty good the last few games.”
Mike Wood (3-2, 4.87) again looks for his first win of the season as a starter when he takes the mound for the Royals. The right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.55 ERA this year when starting, and is coming off his shortest outing.
He threw only 58 pitches over 3 2-3 innings against Cincinnati on Thursday, allowing five runs and seven hits. He did not receive a decision as the Royals rallied for a 9-8 win.
Wood has never faced the Cardinals.