CINCINNATI -- The Cardinals made it no secret that, in the weeks leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline, they went searching for offensive help. They never found that match.
And so, as the Cardinals try to stay relevant in a National League Central race that has them 4 1/2 games behind the Cubs, they're left hoping for a resurgence from a group of hitters who have been collectively scuffling for some time. That continued into Friday, where the team's 3-2 loss to Cincinnati was dotted with missed offensive chances. Mike Leake and Carson Kelly drove in St. Louis' only runs, both on singles.
"It's not like we're not having good at-bats," manager Mike Matheny said. "We're just not having them right when we need them. We need to just get everybody locked in, and it becomes contagious like everything else."
Over the final three innings, the Cardinals stranded seven runners, including the potential tying run at third in both the eighth and ninth. Randal Grichuk struck out with the bases loaded in the eighth. Paul DeJong then went down swinging to end the game.
The one-run loss was St. Louis' third in four games, and since a 10-run outburst on July 26, the Cardinals have pushed across 15 runs in eight games. They rank 20th in the Majors with an average of 4.39 runs per game, but they have even fallen well short of that mark (3.67 runs/game) since the All-Star break.
"Man. We're not good. We're not dynamic," outfielder Tommy Pham candidly stated of the offense afterward. "We lack speed. We lack power. And if you look at all the good teams, they have that. They have both of those elements -- speed and power. We just have a lot of guys, man, who are still trying to figure it out. And that element doesn't help either."
The offense is on pace for 1,347 strikeouts, which would be a franchise record. And unlike last season, when the Cards clubbed a National League-most 225 home runs, they haven't, as Pham noted, balanced those whiffs with power. The Cardinals rank 11th in the NL with 125 through 109 games this year.
A road trip through two of the Majors' most hitter-friendly parks -- Miller Park and Great American Ball Park -- hasn't helped things either. The Cardinals have gone homerless in three of four games.
"We're just one hit away from turning things around," Kolten Wong said. "It's frustrating. We're all mad at the situation, knowing we can all do better. We're all coming in early. Guys are doing unorthodox things trying to figure it out. ... For some reason, things aren't clicking and they haven't clicked all year for us."
This has been an especially tough stretch, with so many players searching simultaneously. That was evident in Friday's lineup construction, which featured a three-hole batter hitless in his previous 14 at-bats, a four-hole batter slugging .363 on the season and a five-hole batter starting his third Major League game this season. Jedd Gyorko, who anchored the offense early, is 13-for-70 with one home run since the All-Star break. Stephen Piscotty is 1-for-12 with three strikeouts since coming off the disabled list. Grichuk has three hits in 25 at-bats since a four-hit game against Colorado, and Matt Carpenter is hitless on this road trip.
"You're seeing in some big situations guys really grinding through, putting together those at-bats and getting into a great situation," Matheny said. "It's not necessarily the situational hitting. It's just getting us into that spot where some guy needs to get hot and come through and change the whole momentum."
Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.