St. Louis Cardinals coming off first series loss of season

ST. LOUIS (AP) More than a month into the season, the St. Louis Cardinals finally lost a series.

Given their list of injuries, it's remarkable it hadn't happened before.

The Cardinals finally got a break Monday after playing 20 consecutive games, going 14-6 during a challenging stretch for the players and the team's training staff. They own the best record in the majors at 22-9 despite losing ace Adam Wainwright for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, shutting down key reliever Jordan Walden due to biceps and shoulder woes, and giving third baseman Matt Carpenter a break due to extreme fatigue and dehydration.

Plus, young starter Carlos Martinez has fallen into a rut.

The fast start despite the run of injuries prompted new Cubs manager Joe Maddon to express admiration for the Cardinals' successful history. St. Louis has been in the NL championship series the last three years after winning the World Series in 2011.

''I hate that I constantly bring up the past but the Rays got better because they played at Yankee Stadium and they played at Fenway Park a lot,'' Maddon said during the Cardinals' last homestand. ''I'm here to tell you, you want to play good teams, you want to play the best teams as often as you can.''

Maddon rattled off Cardinals milestones going back a century when Branch Rickey was just beginning to put his stamp on the franchise, to the 1930s, when they developed a strong farm system, to the present-day blend of high-paid stars and organization-bred fixtures.

''That's a methodology they've built up,'' Maddon said. ''They have a way of doing things and it's rooted.''

During an eight-game winning streak that followed Wainwright's surgery, four players signed as non-roster invitees earned victories. They swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game series that lasted 35 innings, with all the games going to extra innings.

The likes of Carlos Villanueva, Miguel Socolovich and Mitch Harris stood tall.

''You do put a lot of time and effort trying to get the right players to join the organization,'' general manager John Mozeliak said. ''A lot of times you're selling opportunity more than anything.''

Mark Reynolds had a big hit in two games during the winning streak, a grand slam and go-ahead double. Signing the slugger to a one-year deal strengthened St. Louis' bench.

''This team always finds a way to win,'' Reynolds said recently. ''Playing against them so much last year and throughout my career, you get sick of watching them on TV in October pretty much.''

Reality has set in a bit with the Cardinals dropping two of three at Pittsburgh over the weekend. Still, they have been tenacious as well as resilient, with the six losses during the marathon 20-game run by a combined 11 runs.

Carpenter, who is among the league leaders with a .333 average and 14 doubles, will rejoin the team for an interleague series that starts Tuesday in Cleveland.

The club mandated what Mozeliak called a ''timeout'' for Carpenter while the team's medical staff tried to pinpoint the cause of dizziness and light-headedness. The team concluded the problem was not a cardiovascular issue.

''I can tell you they ran the gauntlet of things just to rule out, and most importantly, just to give him a path of where he needs to be,'' Mozeliak said.

The Cardinals could be closer to a long-term replacement for Wainwright, although lefty Tyler Lyons will remain in the rotation for at least one more start. Lefties Marco Gonzales and Jaime Garcia made weekend rehab starts, and Mozeliak said both will need at least one more minor league outing.

One of their existing starters is looking to rebound from a couple of shaky performances. Martinez, 23, was 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA when the calendar turned to May, and then allowed 14 runs over nine innings in his next two starts. The team was particularly peeved by his attitude while the Cubs were scoring five runs in the first inning last week.

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