St. Louis (43-36) has dropped five of eight and is in danger of falling 2 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central for the first time since June 9 of last season. The offense has been the biggest reason for the Cardinals’ struggles, totaling eight runs in the last five defeats.
With a 4-1 loss to Milwaukee in Thursday’s series opener, St. Louis was held to one or no runs for the 18th time. It only had 20 such games in all of 2009.
While the rest of the offense is in a bit of a funk, Pujols is rolling.
The three-time league MVP hit his NL-leading 19th homer in the opener and has four home runs in his last five games. Pujols’ homers don’t always lead to Cardinals victories, though, as the team has lost three of the last five games he hits one out.
Milwaukee (36-43) is faring much better when Fielder homers.
Fielder hit his 18th home run Thursday, giving him five in his last eight games. The Brewers, winners of eight of 11 overall, are 6-2 in the last eight games in which Fielder homers.
“We don’t try to hit homers, you know,” Kottaras said. “We go up there and have a game plan and just try to put the barrel of the bat on the ball.
“When you do that, homers happen.”
Garcia (7-4, 2.27 ERA) entered Sunday’s game in Kansas City with the majors’ second-best ERA, but lasted a season-low two innings while being knocked around for five runs, four hits and two walks in a 10-3 loss. His ERA jumped nearly half a run from 1.79, but pitching coach Dave Duncan isn’t concerned.
“He had one of those days when nothing was working. It happens,” Duncan said. “You don’t look into it too much.”
The rookie left-hander hopes to get back on track at Busch Stadium, where he’s 2-1 with a 1.42 ERA in six starts. He is also 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts against the Brewers.
Narveson (7-4, 5.17) had been getting shelled early in his first 11 starts, yielding 15 opening-inning runs, so he took a different approach Sunday against Seattle, simulating the first two batters in the bullpen.
The strategy worked. The left-hander allowed four hits and a walk while striking out seven in a career-high eight innings of a 3-0 win.
“It was just a little bit of a tweak in the game plan, try to change a little bit in the pregame and how to approach it and what I was going to do in the first inning,” Narveson said.
Narveson’s early woes proved to be costly in his only start against St. Louis on June 5, as he gave up four first-inning runs followed by five scoreless frames in a 5-4, 11-inning loss.