Clock ticking on struggling Moss and Co.

Clock ticking on struggling Moss and Co.

CHICAGO -- Brandon Moss is done tabulating the moral victories. Rather, the Cardinals' first baseman sees a shrinking schedule offering him limited time to reverse the worst skid in his 10-year career.

Moss, whose hitless night on Sunday leaves him with five hits this month, may be the extreme example within an exasperating offense, but his search is also the Cardinals' collective quest. With their offense stymied by National League Cy Young Award contender Jon Lester, the Cardinals dropped their series finale at Wrigley Field, 3-1, to fall back into third place in the NL Wild Card race. They trail the Giants by a half-game, the Mets by 1 1/2. Seven games remain.

St. Louis' positioning within the standings is largely its own doing, too. September has seen the Cardinals' offense go hot and then ice cold regularly, and it's left the team 11-12 since the month began. In the 11 wins, the club has scored 70 runs. Yet, they've scored 19 in the 12 losses.

It's left manager Mike Matheny mixing and matching lineups almost daily, desperate to find something that sticks.

"I'm just trying to get guys hot," Matheny said. "How many guys can we get hot? That's the key. When we get them all going, there are a number of guys who can fit in that order. Until then, we're going to have to mix and match and make something happen."

On Sunday, that meant putting Moss in the cleanup spot despite his dearth of recent production. Moss finished 0-for-4 with a sharp lineout to strand two in his eighth-inning at-bat. Squaring the ball up was no consolation.

"I could care less how hard I hit it right now. I just want something to fall for the team," Moss said. "There's 25 people on the field and I'm finding every one of them. I get jammed, somebody makes a play. I hit a ball off the end of the bat, somebody makes a play. If I barrel it, somebody gets it. I've never been through one like this in my life. I don't have any answers except for to go up and continue to try to hit the ball, drive the ball and have good at-bats."

Since Aug. 27, Moss has registered six hits in 85 at-bats. He's struck out in 33 percent of those plate appearances. Earlier in the month, he was exasperated by how lost he felt with his timing. Now, he's feeling locked in with no results as evidence.

The Cardinals see the signs for a possible breakout, which is why Matheny continues to utilize Moss as a middle-of-the-order bat.

"It's not like we're having anybody else who has just taken over," Matheny said. "We have some guys who have some pretty good numbers, but this guy, he can drive the ball for us. We have to figure out a way to get him going and have him in the middle of the lineup where he can drive in runs."

Moss, of course, is just one piece. Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter is slashing .222/.293/.374 in 45 games since returning from an oblique injury. Stephen Piscotty, 8-for-45, has cooled, as has Jedd Gyorko, who, after hitting 19 homers in 46 games after the All-Star break, has one since Sept. 6.

In the team's last eight losses, it has scored eight runs and gone 4-for-39 with runners in scoring position.

Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Read her blog, follow her on Twitter, like her Facebook page and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.