April 27: Pirates (10-15) @ Cardinals (13-12)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

0427141003On a day when the Cardinals are handing out mini bats at the Busch Stadium gates, they hope to find their own regular-sized ones ready for use. That would be a change.

St. Louis enters Sunday’s game having scored three or fewer runs in seven straight games. No one has hit a home run in 10 games (354 at-bats and counting), and the Cardinals are 3-for-23 with runners in scoring position in this series. The Cardinals have six position players batting below .200 and a team slugging percentage of .342. I could go on and on…

Manager Mike Matheny has tried to be proactive in using different lineups, different combinations of starters, etc. to create the spark that likely won’t come until someone delivers a big hit. On Saturday, he required a later report time, hoping some extra time away from the park could provide a mental respite. The club cancelled on-field batting practice. It was the opposite approach on Sunday, as players were asked to be at the ballpark five hours before first pitch and did all take batting practice. At least you can’t argue that the work isn’t there.

As a bonus, the Cardinals get one of their hottest hitters back in the lineup today in starter Adam Wainwright, who is 5-for-12 this season. “Waino thinks he is the offense,” Matheny joked pregame. “And I’m OK with that.” The Cardinals will take a boost in any form.

A win today would salvage a series win and keep the Cardinals from falling back to .500. And while it’s early, there’s also the necessity of trying to keep pace with the Brewers, who hold a 5.5 game advantage in the division. The Cardinals never trailed in the National League Central by that much last season.

Rain is in the forecast throughout the day, though at the moment the tarp is off and the field is being prepared for an on-time start.

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