Cards get first day off after three off days

Friday, April 16, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- Getting swept by the Houston Astros wasn't the end of the world for the St. Louis Cardinals.

They've been living by the mantra that it's early since dropping three of four to the Milwaukee Brewers to start the year. They were saying it again after losing three straight to the Astros to fall to 1-6 at home, their worst start at Busch Stadium since they also won one of their first seven in 1973.

"It's a six-month season and you can't put too much stock in a three-game series," center fielder Jim Edmonds said. "You're going to go up and down all year.

"This is the down part now, I guess, if you want to call it that."

The Cardinals got their first day off of the season on Thursday after going 4-6 in the opening 10-game roller-coaster stretch. After getting outscored 35-20 by the Brewers, the Cardinals outscored the Diamondbacks 29-13 in a three-game sweep, then were outscored by Houston 26-9.

"We just didn't have a lot to hit at and they did," manager Tony La Russa said. "That's the way I see the games, that's the way you can talk about it. That's something we have to reverse."

Edmonds hot, others notFirst, they get a break before opening a three-game weekend series against the Rockies today. Edmonds was ready for it even though he was the lone bright spot against the Astros, going 4-for-8 with a double, homer, three RBIs and five walks. He's a career .377 hitter against Houston with 19 homers and 48 RBIs in 207 at-bats.

"A day off is always good when you're playing bad," Edmonds said. "I'm sure Houston isn't looking forward to a day off, and we are."

When they weren't facing Edmonds, Astros pitchers were dominant this week, giving up just four runs after the first inning of Monday's game.

"It's a little surprising," Wade Miller after allowing two hits and working around a career-worst seven walks in seven innings Wednesday. "They're going to come back, they're going to play us hard."

Throughout, the Cardinals have been plagued by spotty defense, committing seven errors in addition to countless other mental miscues.

"If you want to sum it up, say it's pretty tough to win when you don't pitch, you don't hit and you don't play defense," Edmonds said. "What else is there? We're not good enough to win without that, case closed."

The Cardinals were picked by most experts to finish third behind the pitching rich Astros and Cubs in the Central. La Russa has maintained nearly every day that his team could be very good and the worst it'll be is "pretty good."

He's just waiting for the pitchers to become consistent.

"We're not executing nearly enough times," La Russa said. "When you don't do that you'll have bad consequences whether it's singles that hurt you, balls hit in the gap or balls that leave the park.

"In games we've pitched well, we've won."

Cardinals pitchers have given up 15 homers in seven games at Busch Stadium thus far. Even closer Jason Isringhausen was victimized, surrendering only his third homer in three seasons on Jeff Bagwell's three-run ninth-inning shot Wednesday.

"We have to put our pitches where we want them," Isringhausen said. "We can pitch better, we know that.

"We've been kicked a little bit, but we're not down."

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